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A Light to the Gentiles
Acts 13.44-52

Everyone who works with words – the poet, the journalist, the philosopher, the translator, the theologian – knows it all too well. We use a word one day and it seems perfectly all right. It does the job. The next day we are told it now means something different, or is now regarded as impolite. Often words do what T. S. Eliot said they do, cracking and sometimes breaking under the burden and tension we put on them, slipping, sliding, perishing and decaying just when we wanted to rely on them. This happens particularly when there is an embarrassing or unpleasant social reality for which any name is going to be tricky: witness the slipping and sliding between ‘negro’, ‘nigger’, ‘black’ and ‘African-American’ (and many more) in the United States over the last two or three generations. Sometimes the words crack, break or decay with imprecision when the reality is so great that it can hardly be conceived: reviewers who really like a novel, a film or a concert quickly run short of adjectives to say that this wasn’t just ‘great’, ‘beautiful’, ‘powerful’ or whatever – those have been said so often, and this was different! – but something more. And sometimes the words stay the same, in traditional contexts, while the meaning moves on, slowly, silently, unnoticed until it’s almost too late. The word which meant one thing is now used, without anyone realizing it, for almost the exact opposite. (People have often pointed out that the euphemism for ‘strike’, namely ‘industrial action’, is exactly wrong, since what is happening is ‘industrial inaction’.)...

Taken from Acts for Everyone Part 2 by Tom Wright

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