Freshmores and Juniors

Well, we have hit a new high in political correctness and gender identification. I just heard about a college professor who decided it was way too sexist to call first year students by their old name—freshmen. This, of course, makes it sound like all the frosh are men. Where I went to college, six out of seven of them were women, so I can see his point.

Usually I’m not into the P.C. stuff, but I thinkI like this one. He wants to call the newbies, freshmores. It’s kind of appealing,don’t you think? It’s got a great ring to it, easy to remember (because of the sophomorething), and apparently, it’s already catching on at his school. There’s onlyone problem with it. When I checked the internet to do some research on the professor, I found that “freshmore” is already in use.

Not All Freshmores Flunked Out

From what I can tell, a freshmoreis someone who has already been through their freshman year but doesn’t haveenough credits to qualify as a sophomore. As I recall, there were a lot ofthose in my school as well, but we didn’t call them freshmores. Usually they wereon academic probation, and after one more semester, they flunked out. We thencalled them “gone.” Not as nifty a term, but appropriate nonetheless. Not allfreshmores flunked out, of course, but they were often the ones that took eightyears to finish college. To each his own, but I wanted out as early as possible.I secured the old sheepskin ASAP.

I see another problem on the horizon for theprofessor’s new expression. If we change the word freshmen to freshmore, whatare we going to do with the older class—the juniors? This word is definitelyfraught with sexist overtones. All the Juniors I know are male. I’ve neverheard of a Jane Doe, Jr. (What DO we call females who are named after theirmothers?) If we’re going to come up with a new term for the freshmen, we may aswell go all out and rename the juniors as well. But what should we call them? I’mopen for suggestions.

In actuality, when daughters are named after their mothers, the term Junior can be attached. It seems more of a male thing because it’s relatively rare that mothers dub their girls with the name that they carry as well. Because of that, junior doesn’t flow well with the fairer sex (can we still say that?).

A Lower Ranking

Still, a quick perusal of any dictionary also includes females when defining the term junior. That’s even worse, however. The definition of a junior is “a person holding a lower position in a hierarchy of ranks.” They may trail seniors by a year, but there are still two classes beneath them. As it turns out, junior is somewhat of a demeaning term.

Nevertheless, there’s no shame in being a junior (or a freshman for that matter). Hang in there. You will soon inherit a double portion.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of PittsburghTheological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Jamais Vu

Most of us are familiar with the French term, “déjà vu.” In case you’ve not run into this handy-dandy concept, it’s the feeling that occurs when you’re in a situation that gives you the sense you’ve lived through that before. David Crosby (of CSNY fame) once wrote a song entitled Deja Vu in which the band repeatedly sang, “We have all been here before.” Catchy, huh?

Some of the “experts” think déjà vu occurs when your brain short-circuits and plays what you’re seeing as a memory. Cool. I’ve had this experience many times in the past, but now that I think of it, I haven’t had it recently. Things must change when you get older and begin losing your memory.

Just Guessing…

There’s another French term that I only learned recently. The term is “jamais vu.” I don’t think there are any songs about it, but that only stands to reason. Jamais vu is almost the opposite of déjà vu. Merriam-Webster says jamais vu is“the experience of being unfamiliar with a person or situation that is actually very familiar.” Now, this is something I suspect I will experience more and more as I grow older. Just guessing…

I don’tknow if it applies, but this is something I often experience when I readScripture. Quite frequently I’ll read a passage that appears to be brand new.I’m pretty sure I’ve read the entire Bible over the years, but there are pericopesthat seem to leap off the page and the meanings appear to be brand new.

Some of the liberal politicians like to say that the U.S. Constitution is a “living, breathing document.” By this, I suspect they mean that the text has new connotations as it is applied to different times and situations. While a lot of their more conservative brethren disagree, it’s a fascinating concept—one that loosely fits the Bible.

It Doesn’t Prove Anything

By that I mean, God’s Word is a living, breathing thing. There’s even a paraphrase of Scripture that’s entitled “The Living Bible.” That, by itself, doesn’t prove anything, but experience tends to point me in that direction. It’s not that the Bible changes or means different things than it used to mean. It’s that our experience when reading God’s Word often develops and grows as we mature in the faith.

We can peruse a passage that we’ve read a hundred times, and suddenly, God speaks to usthrough that passage in a way He has never done so before. It’s revelatory,inspirational, and invigorating. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Frenchmeant by jamais vu, but it’s not exactly rare that I “experience beingunfamiliar with a [verse] that is actually very familiar.”

It’s this sort of jamais vu that makes Biblical studies so enticing. The Lord speaks to us through His Word more than in any other way—at least that’s my experience. I encourage you to go back and read the old familiar passages with fresh eyes. You never know when jamais vu will strike.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Nice and Ignorant

I ran across a rather interesting factrecently. The English word, “nice,” comes from a Latin word meaning “ignorant.”Etymology is always interesting, but this one seemed to be a road too far. Icouldn’t resist, so I did a little research. Here’s what I found.

“Five hundred years ago, when nice was first used in English, it meant ‘foolish or stupid.’ This is not as surprising as it may seem, since it came through early French from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” By the 16th century, the sense of being “very particular” or “finicky” had developed. In the 19th century, nice came to mean “pleasant or agreeable” and then “respectable,” a sense quite unlike its original meaning.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this to be a bit annoying. As a matter of fact, I find it to be a tad scary. How can we take a perfectly legitimate word and turn it into something entirely different? A time traveler could get himself into a slew of trouble if he wasn’t careful.

After I thought about it, though, I realized we do this sort of thing all the time. For example, when I was in college, people began to use the word “bad” the same way you and I would use the word “good.” If they heard a song they really liked, they would say something like, “That’s a really bad tune.” Unless you were attuned to their particular vocabulary, you would have thought they hated that music. Of course, you would have been entirely wrong.

These days, this seems to happen a lot in politics.I used to know what it meant to be a conservative or a liberal, for example. Nolonger. These words have been so skewed over the past few decades, I can’t tellwhat they mean anymore. This is great for politicians, because they can liethrough their teeth and come out smelling like a rose if they do it correctly.

That’s bad enough in and of itself. But what’s worse (at least in my view) is the way this kind of spin has worked its way into the church. We seem to have begun doing the same thing the politicians are doing. We’re taking terms and changing their meaning. And while people almost expect that sort of thing in the political realm, they often get blindsided when those tactics are applied in the spiritual realm.

Spiritual Spin

It goes beyond mere terms as well. Sometimes, we’ll take Scripture and twist the meaning to fit our own narrative. You can hear things like, “Jesus said this, but what He really meant was _____ (feel free to fill in the blank). Really?

I’ve gotten to the place where I like to read a red-letter version (where the words of Jesus are printed in red) to remind me what His words really were. That way, when the word twisters start playing their game, I’m on it. Jesus’ words weren’t always nice, but they were never ignorant.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]