Getting the words right 

The grammar vigilante is on the streets of Bristol. According to BBC News this guy has been going out at night, correcting street signs, for 13 years. He denies it’s a crime. He says, “It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place.” I believe there’s a programme on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm tonight called ‘The Apostrophiser’. 

 He’s a man with a mission, grammar’s version of Banksy. 


I love this Banksy interpretation of the famous Lynne Truss illustration. “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.

For those without the grammar skills, the comma in the last sentence changes the meaning. 

Words matter. They communicate meaning, speak out truths or lies, can build up or tear down. The early Christian author, James, spells out the damage that can be done with words. 

 The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

Our words matter too, so what we say and write is important. In this age of immediate communication, some forethought is important. Too many friendships are broken by too quick a text or Facebook post. 

In 2nd Century Rome, they understood the power of The Word. Philosopher ruler, Caesar Marcus Aurelius wrote about The Word – an ultimate reality that, if seen, could help one to rise above categories of good and bad, to the category of Truth. It is related to Plato’s idea of a heavenly pattern for all things: as though for a table, sonewhere in the heavens is a perfect table from which all tables find their form. 

In the Greek (in which they all wrote, even the Roman Marcus Aurelius) the perfect word is Logos. So when John’s gospel begins‘in the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ he’s making a bold proclamation about Jesus. He is the Ultimate Word. Straight from the heavenlies, no punctuation or grammar mistakes here. Jesus is God speaking, perfectly. 

In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1

It is so important to get the words right, and so hard to do. The meaning changes with incorrect grammar. The meaning of our words can be misunderstood if we rush at them. Good job that when God communicates with us he does it through Jesus, the perfect Word. And His communication never misses a step.