Kondraty Ryleyev was sentenced to be hanged for his part in an unsuccessful uprising
against the Russian czar Nicholas I in December 1825. But the rope broke and Ryleyev,
bruised and battered, fell to the ground, got up, and said, "In Russia they do not
know how to do anything properly, not even how to make a rope." An accident of this
sort usually resulted in a pardon, so a messenger was sent to the czar to know his
pleasure. Nicholas asked, "What did he say?"
"Sire, he said that in Russia they do not even know how to make a rope
"Well, let the contrary be proved," said the czar.
Today in the Word, March 13, 1993.
In 1887 the coffin of Abraham Lincoln was pried open to determine if it contained his
body. What makes that act so remarkable is the fact that Lincoln's body had rested in that
coffin for 22 years. Yet, even more amazing is that 14 years later a rumor circulated
again that Lincoln's coffin was actually empty. The furor so gripped the land that the
only way to silence it was to dig up the coffin--again. This was done and the rumor
silenced when a handful of witnesses viewed the lifeless body of Abraham Lincoln.
Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 27.
Talk is cheap because the supply always exceeds the demand. One of the lessons of
history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
Because a woman's vocal cords are shorter than a man's she can actually speak with less
effort than he can. Shorter vocal cords not only cause a woman's voice to be more highly
pitched, but also require less air to become agitated, making it possible for her to talk
more with less energy expended.
Sparks, quoted in Homemade, Dec., 1984.
Several years ago a professor at the University of Pennsylvania was know for giving
boring, cliché-ridden lectures. At the beginning of one semester, an innovative class
breathed new life into his course by assigning baseball plays to each hackneyed phrase.
For example, "on the other hand" was a base hit; "by the same token"
was a strikeout; "and so on" was a stolen base. Divided into two teams by the
center aisle of the lecture hall, the students throughout the term played inning after
inning of silent but vigorous baseball. On the last day of class, the impossible happened
-- the score was tied, the bases were loaded and the batter hit a home run! The winning
team stood and cheered wildly. Though deeply appreciative, the professor was quoted later
as having wondered why only one-half of the students had been enthusiastic about his
Louis De V. Day, Jr., in Pennomena, Reader's Digest, April 1981.
Aesop, the ancient storyteller, told this fable: Once upon a time, a donkey found a
lion's skin. He tried it on, strutted around, and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came
along, and the donkey tried to scare him, too. But the fox, hearing the donkey's voice,
said, "If you want to terrify me, you'll have to disguise your bray." Aesop's
moral: Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away.
Can it be that the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking? That's
what the statistics say. If all of our words were put into print, the result would be
this: a single day's words would fill a 50-page book, while in a year's time the average
person's words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! Among all those words there are
bound to be some spoken in anger, carelessness, or haste.
Today in the Word, June 15, 1992.
Pianist Artur Rubenstein, loquacious in eight languages, once told this story on
himself: Some years ago he was assailed by a stubborn case of hoarseness. The newspapers
were full of reports about smoking and cancer; so he decided to consult a throat
specialist. "I searched his face for a clue during the 30 minute examination,"
Rubenstein said, "but it was expressionless. He told me to come back the next day. I
went home full of fears, and I didn't sleep that night." The next day there was
another long examination and again an ominous silence. "Tell me," the pianist
exclaimed. "I can stand the truth. I've lived a full, rich life. What's wrong with
me?" The physician said, "You talk too much."
Bits & Pieces, January, 1990, p. 15.
A turtle lays thousands of eggs without anyone knowing, but when the hen lays an egg,
the whole country is informed.
Preventive tactics -- or things you should never say once without thinking twice:
- It's no trouble at all.
- I love dogs.
- We have plenty of room.
- Call me any time.
- Is there anything I can do?
- My husband is a doctor/lawyer/accountant.
- I'll try anything once.
- Of course, bring the kids.
- Why don't you stay for dinner?
- If worst comes to worst, you can use mine.
- Don't worry -- there's more where that came from.
- Over my dead body, you will!
Hester Mundis, Powermom, Congdon & Weed.
Some choice thoughts about the Tongue:
About Abrasive Speech
Many a blunt word has a sharp edge.
Keep your words soft and sweet; you never know when you may have to eat them.
Gossip is like soap -- mostly lye!
A gossip is just a fool with a keen sense of rumor.
Profanity is a public announcement of stupidity.
Swearing is a lax man's way of trying to be emphatic.
About telling the Truth
A lie is a coward's way of getting out of trouble.
Truth is as clear as a bell, but it isn't always tolled.
When you sing your own praise, you always get the tune too high.
Don't brag; it isn't the whistle that pulls the train.
For in many things we stumble. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect
man, and able also to bridle the whole body. James 3:2
Our Daily Bread.
If you don't say it -- they can't repeat it.
Wilbur C. Munnecke, quoted by Ann Landers.
Lou Gehrig was once hired by a breakfast-cereal company to promote a cereal named
"Huskies," but when the radio interviewer asked Lou what he attributed his
strength and stamina to, he quickly answered, "Wheaties."
Here is some traditional wisdom about speech and the tongue:
It would be better to leave people wondering why you didn't talk than why you did.
First law of public speaking: Nice guys finish fast.
When all is said and done, there's a lot more said than done.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all
Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it.
James Russell Lowell.
Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought.
If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it.
If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a
pile-driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time
-- a tremendous whack!
Sometimes the difference between a good speaker and a poor speaker is a comfortable
I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say.
If someone paid you ten cents for every kind word you said about people, and collected
five cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?
Henry N. Ferguson.
Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During
his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two
gentlemen began whispering. "That's Winston Churchill." "They say he is
getting senile." "They say he should step aside and leave the running of the
nation to more dynamic and capable men." When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned
to the men and said, "Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!"
Barbara Hatcher, Vital Speeches, March 1, 1987.
The difference between a successful career and a mediocre one sometimes consists of
leaving about four or five things a day unsaid.
Bits & Pieces, January, 1990, p. 15.
Some people can overwhelm you with a dazzling vocabulary complete with the latest
jargon and in-talk. The glib speaker may not know what he's talking about...but it sounds
so "right"! Take heart, you, too, can get into the act with your own instant
An "Instant Buzzword Generator" has been developed to give you an impressive
lingo that's bound to impress. Through use of this device, you simple select any word from
each column below and use them in consecutive sequence. Thus 1, 4, 1 would be "total
digital flexibility." Sounds impressive, doesn't it? Just think how your conversation
will suddenly confuse everyone! People will conclude that because you're incomprehensible,
you're profound. Clip the "Instant Buzzword Generator" and keep it ready for use.
Instant Buzzword Generator
Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
0. Integrated 0. Management 0. Options
1. Total 1. Organizational 1. Flexibility
2. Systematized 2. Monitored 2. Compatibility
3. Parallel 3. Reciprocal 3. Mobility
4. Functional 4. Digital 4. Programming
5. Responsive 5. Logic 5. Concept
6. Optical 6. Transitional 6. Time phase
7. Synchronized 7. Incremental 7. Projection
8. compatible 8. Third generation 8. Hardware
9. Balanced 9. Policy 9. Contingency
Casey Stengel was a longtime major league baseball manager whose unique way with the
English language became known as "Stengelese." He once said, "I've always
heard that it couldn't be done, but sometimes it don't always work." That's typical
Casey held a position on the board of directors for a California bank. According to a
story that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Casey described his duties this
way: "There ain't nuthin' to it. You go into the fancy meeting room and you just sit
there and never open your yap. As long as you don't say nuthin' they don't know whether
you're smart or dumb."
Daily Bread, June 5, 1992.
The Karankawa Indians, who used to inhabit the lower Gulf plains of Texas and Mexico,
met their demise in the middle of the Texas Revolution in 1836. It seems that Captain
Philip Dimmit, who owned a ranch north of present-day Corpus Christi, used to give the
Karankawas beef whenever they were in the area. At the outbreak of the Revolution,
however, Dimmit left his ranch to serve with the Texans. In Dimmit's absence, the Indians
rounded up a few cattle. As they ate the beef, a party of Mexican soldiers rode up and
demanded to know what they were doing. "We are Captain Dimmit's friends," the
Karankawas replied. When the Mexicans heard this they attacked, killing many and causing
the rest to flee. The remaining Karankawas later met a party of Texans. Fearing another
assault, the Indians began shouting, "Viva Mexico!" Immediately the Texans
attacked, and only a few of the hapless Karankawas escaped.
Today in the Word, August 30, 1992.
Recently, I heard a touching story which illustrates the power that words have to
change a life -- a power that lies right in the hands of those reading this article.
Mary had grown up knowing that she was different from the other kids, and she hated it.
She was born with a cleft palate and had to bear the jokes and stares of cruel children
who teased her non-stop about her misshaped lip, crooked nose, and garbled speech.
With all the teasing, Mary grew up hating the fact that she was "different".
She was convinced that no one, outside her family, could ever love her ... until she
entered Mrs. Leonard's class. Mrs. Leonard had a warm smile, a round face, and shiny brown
hair. While everyone in her class liked her, Mary came to love Mrs. Leonard.
In the 1950's, it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing
test. However, in Mary's case, in addition to her cleft palate, she was barely able to
hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the other children have another
"difference" to point out, she would cheat on the test each year. The
"whisper test" was given by having a child walk to the classroom door, turn
sideways, close one ear with a finger, and then repeat something which the teacher
Mary turned her bad ear towards her teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. She
knew that teachers would often say things like, "The sky is blue," or "What
color are your shoes?" But not on that day. Surely, God put seven words in Mrs.
Leonard's mouth that changed Mary's life forever. When the "Whisper test" came,
Mary heard the words: "I wish you were my little girl."
Dads, I wish there was some way that I could communicate to you the incredible blessing
which affirming words impart to children. I wish, too, that you could sit in my office,
when I counsel, and hear the terrible damage that individuals received from not hearing
affirming words -- particularly affirming words from a father. While words from a godly
teacher can melt a heart, words from a father can powerfully set the course of a life.
If affirming words were something rarely spoken in your home growing up, let me give
you some tips on words and phrases that can brighten your own child's eyes and life. These
words are easy to say to any child who comes into your life.
I'm proud of you, Way to go, Bingo ... you did it, Magnificent, I knew you could do it,
What a good helper, You're very special to me, I trust you, What a treasure, Hurray for
you, Beautiful work, You're a real trooper, Well done, That's so creative, You make my
day, You're a joy, Give me a big hug, You're such a good listener, You figured it out, I
love you, You're so responsible, You remembered, You're the best, You sure tried hard,
I've got to hand it to you, I couldn't be prouder of you, You light up my day, I'm praying
for you, You're wonderful, I'm behind you, You're so kind to your (brother/sister), You're
God's special gift, I'm here for you.
John Trent, Ph.D., Vice President of Today's Family, Men of
Action, Winter 1993, p. 5.
Unfortunately, that is not very often how it works. The accusatory rhetoric at the
United Nations is not all that different in tone from the way Christians argue with each
other. Here is an example from the seventeenth century, when the
Puritans and the Quakers were engaged in angry debates: The great Puritan preacher
Richard Baxter wrote a pamphlet in which he lumped the Quakers with "drunkards,
swearers, whoremongers, and sensual wretches" and other "miserable
creatures." And then -- just in case he had not yet insulted them enough -- he
insisted that Quakers are no better than "Papists."
The Quaker leader James Naylor announced that he was compelled "by the Spirit of
Jesus Christ" to respond to these harsh accusations. He proceeded to characterize his
Puritan opponent as a "Serpent," a "Liar," and "Child of the
Devil," a "Cursed Hypocrite," and a "Dumb Dog."
This is strong stuff. What makes it especially sad is that the angry talk often makes
it difficult to get to the real issues. The debate between the Puritans and the Quakers
was actually a rather interesting and helpful one. Both parties engaged in some serious
biblical exposition; if the heavy rhetoric were removed, the discussion could easily
appear to have been a friendly argument between Christians who had some important things
to talk about. But I doubt that either group heard the helpful things the other side was
saying. Too much angry rhetoric was in the air.
Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, p. 52.
A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like the wise old bird?