Here I am, mates, teaching and preaching in London, England. Actually I am in Croydon, south of London, to be more precise (a high value here in jolly old England!). Whereas in most countries in Europe I need a translator, I thought I would be safe here. After all, I was born and raised in Canada (a British Commonwealth nation) and at age eleven moved to the U.S. (where at least they spoke some form of Recognizable English). One would think I could get by on my own in any English-speaking country. Au contraire, mon frère! Don’t be impressed. That represents pretty much the extent of four years of learning (?) French in school.
I have quickly learned here in England that if one is to speak “The King’s English” one must be ever aware of the differences between British English and American English—especially if visiting this side of The Pond (i.e. the Atlantic Ocean). This is the land where…
• a biscuit is a cookie, chips are French fries and crisps are potato chips.
• a bonnet is the car hood and the boot is the trunk where you keep a spare tyre.
• a dummy is a baby pacifier, a nappy is a diaper and children play naughts and crosses (tic tac toe).
• a lift is an elevator, a torch is a flashlight and a vest is an undershirt.
• a lorry is a truck, a spanner is a wrench and your car runs on petro.
Of course, little did this backyard astronomer know yesterday when talking to a group about the stars that the proper reference for the Big Dipper in the northern sky is “The Plough.”
I went to the computer this morning and asked the question of The Proper Mr. Google, “What is English?” and my online search presented me with the following description—“English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands.” My response? “Huh!”—or whatever the British equivalent is, eh! But then I asked, “What is the King’s English?” Again, I was taken to the classic works where even the Brits banter over “concision” versus “being concise.” However, I was then drawn even deeper to a devotional thought—which brings me to the reason why I am writing anyway—or is it ‘anyways’? (This need for precision is making this Americanized Canadian a bit nervous).
So here is my thought for the day. I am here in the land where theologian, translator and reformer John Wycliffe (c. 1320-1384) gave the world the first Bible in English and where William Tyndale (1494-1536) was executed for continuing Wycliffe’s legacy over a century later. In his preface to the translation of the first five books of the Bible into English, Wycliffe wrote of the need for the Scriptures to be presented in “their mother tongue.” Englanders Tyndale and Wycliffe helped to begin a reformation, not just of theology but of practice. Now, we the people—the simple folk—the non-clergy—the English-speaking people of the world—could spend time digging deeply and daily into the riches of Scripture in our own language. It was not long after the Authorized King James Version was produced in 1611. Of course, I am also blessed with a number of many modern English versions and I fully expect as the English language evolves that there will be even more.
So here I sit, in a land of such rich spiritual heritage, preparing this morning to preach from my English Bible to English-speaking people from all over the world, where English is becoming the International Language. No doubt, in the hearing of these people, I will be guilty of speaking Improper English. About that I have no control. I am an American. It is expected. However, may it be said that even though I butchered the King’s English, I did so with a deep reverence and love for the King of Kings. May my lack of precision be overshadowed by my depth and passion.
Toodle-loo! Or is it Toddle Off (as in some parts of the U.K.) or Tooraloo (as in Ireland) or….