New Words

New Words Blog

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

Every field or discipline tends to have its own specialized vocabulary.  That seems to be one way of differentiating between insiders and outsiders. Sometimes it gets to be quite strange.

I remember the first time I was told that a hospital patient had expired.  Warranties expire.  Subscriptions expire. The “use by” date on medications expire. I don’t tend to think of people expiring.

I’m old enough to remember when Ca-rib(b)-e-an was Car-i-(b)be-an. Sometimes the spelling doesn’t even have to change.  I remember when an apple and a blackberry were just things that you ate.  Sometimes words get reassigned or expanded in unforeseen ways.

In years gone by, Jamie Cox would weed titles from the Overton Memorial Library.  She removed obsolete or unneeded books. We even had an official weeding policy.  I recently learned that librarians no longer weed.  Now, they deselect.  The current debate seems to be whether they deselect or de-select.  We chose to omit the hyphen in the spirit of simplicity.

Governments seem to love new words and new phrases.  Politicians don’t support tax increases, but they love to enhance revenue.  They support transparency on a need-to-know basis.  They’ll describe a plane crash as “a sudden unscheduled landing.”  Recession gets re-labeled as prolonged economic downturn.  A military retreat becomes a strategic redeployment of personnel.


Games with words can be fun, but not when the goal of the game is to mislead or manipulate.  We see such games condemned by Christ in Matthew 23:16-22.  We love the clear words of Jesus from Matthew 7:37: “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

2 Timothy 2:14 is so helpful: “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” Many Bibles link the verse to Titus 3:9: “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.”


Old or new, we will be judged by our words.  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word that men speak, they will give account in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).  Consider the following implications:

  • Our words are a window to our hearts.
  • God knows both our words and our hearts.
  • We are responsible for both our words and the hearts from which they flow.
  • We will give account to God in the judgment.

In light of that, Proverbs 10:19 and 17:27 bless us: “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”  “He who has knowledge spares his words…” – Bill Bagents