Tuesday, 20 May 2014


It's defined as "the quality of destroying the meaning of a word" (Chambers Dictionary). Someone who commits this travesty can also be described as 'a verbicide'. It's not included in every dictionary, but it is listed with Chambers, dictionary.com and constitutes a nifty valid choice for Scrabble players. Merriam-Webster notes that it made it's debut way back in 1858.

I'm not sure why you'd want to use it though, when there's an excellent word already out there that covers the meaning perfectly, and has graced the English language since at least the 14th century.


Theology, of whatever variety, is all about semantics, in this case the art of reinterpreting words to mean something that lay well beyond the worldview or intention of the authors. This is supposed to be a profoundly insightful process.

Alternately you could call it a nonsense. 

Of course there are classy new terms that have been invented to explain and justify verbicide. Okay, words do shift in meaning over the years, and dictionaries convey the current consensus rather than any eternal iron-clad exactitudes, but deliberate deconstruction is something else again, palatable only over a second glass of Chardonnay while lying back in a hot tub and smoking something that may or may not be legal in your jurisdiction. 

My problem is that I prefer black beer to white wine. 

Theological systems are castles built on very thin cloud. The logic is self-referential, enabling Tarzan-like leaps from assumption to improbability on vines of dogma. There's less spiritual insight than self-delusion in that enterprise.

Theology was once known as the queen of the sciences, but the old bird has seen better days. If it is a science, it's unlike any other, beyond any testable hypothesis, and without any agreed meaning to much of the technical verbiage that accompanies it. 

So next time you come across a worthy theologian torturing a word like 'resurrection' into metaphorical bumpf, think verbicide. It may not be in your Oxford or Collins. But it should be.

No comments:

Post a Comment