What is “church”? Logophile speaks out with modern English.

Ug the linguistic acrobats are at me again, and frankly they’re wrong!

Here is the thing, as much as you would like to re-imagine a word, re-purpose it, you actually don’t have the authority to do so.  In today’s modern society, popular use case is the primary way in which a word meaning gets changed, followed by new invention. And in either case, you have to get enough people all using the word in the same way in order to get the word in.

To be included in a Merriam-Webster dictionary, a word must be used in a substantial number of citations that come from a wide range of publications over a considerable period of time. Specifically, the word must have enough citations to allow accurate judgments about its establishment, currency, and meaning.
Authority Without Authoritarianism

Change and variation are as natural in language as they are in other areas of human life and Merriam-Webster reference works must reflect that fact. By relying on citational evidence, we hope to keep our publications grounded in the details of current usage so they can calmly and dispassionately offer information about modern English. That way, our references can speak with authority without being authoritarian.

(source: Webster: how a word gains meaning.)

people walking in puddles slush and snow

Today looks like another blue day.

So if I wake up tomorrow and decide that “blue” really refers to a wintery-mix of weather, I don’t get to launch into a tirade when I turn on the weather report and the meteorologist says “wintery-mix” and yell at him or her that they should have said “blue.”  “We are experiencing blue outside,” would almost certainly be interpreted as sunny weather without clouds and the whole thing would just devolve from there.

So, frankly dear people stop correcting me if I say I’m “going to church.” Stop telling me that” the church is the people,” or the “church is the community,” or the “church is the congregation.”  All of that is well and fine, but when you mess with words you actually confuse and obfuscate.

If I mean that I am going to be with my congregation I’ll say so.  If I mean that I am going to see some of my favorite people, I’ll say that too.  But if I mean I am going to the building on the corner of Church Street then I will say I am going to church.  Because the definition of church according to the dictionary is “a building used for public Christian worship.”  Or when phrased with a capital C, Church is “institutionalized religion as a political or social force; the hierarchy of clergy of a Christian organization, especially the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England.”

Now ask me if I think the dictionary should update, based on citation, and include your parallel definition of church as “a body of people working as a community to serve God.” The answer is yes, as we build buy in the definition has to be expanded. Just kindly recall that expanding the definition does not remove the existing definition.

logophillicly yours




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