A couple of Sundays ago, I was talking with a group of visitors following a morning service. Several were from different sections of our nation. All, of course, spoke English, but a few possessed a distinct dialect that revealed their roots.
MR PIGS . . . MR NOT PIGS . . . OSAR . . . CM PENZ . . . LIB . . . MR PIGS.
Okay, give it a whirl. Read all those words again and translate. If you can—I can tell you what part of the country you're from. Your speech will betray you . . . it does every time.
A couple of Sundays ago, I was talking with a group of visitors following a morning service. Several were from different sections of our nation. All, of course, spoke English, but a few possessed a distinct dialect that revealed their roots. I had a little fun by looking at them and asking things like, "When did you move from New York?" or "How long has it been since you left New England?" Both guesses were correct.
I had the most fun with a couple from Noth Cawline-ah (emphasis on "line"). I missed and guessed Geow-gha . . . and they were flabbergasted that I'd have the nerve to put 'em in that camp. I mean, after all!
But it's the Texan and Oklahoman that I get the biggest kick out of. Uh, 'scuse me, I shoulda said git. Unless yore raised duwn thar or have Walt Garrison nearby as a translator, you need a glossary of terms to carry witcha:
|Gittin sum hep
||Getting some help
||Big rain storm
It helps to have a pinch 'tween your cheek 'n' gums . . . then those words kinda tumble outa your mouth real natural. Good ole boys readin' this ain't laughin' 'cause we're the ones who talk funny. Like they'd have no trouble a'tall with that exam I started with:
MR PIGS . . . "em are pigs." MR NOT PIGS "em are not pigs!" OSAR . . . "Oh, yes, 'ey are." CM PENZ . . . "See 'em pens?" . . . LIB . . . "ul I be!" MR PIGS . . . "em are pigs!"
I had a guy tell me that that is part of the entrance exam into Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A & M. Why not? If ya cain't read plain ole American stuff, you ain't got no beniss goin' on to college! I better stop this nonsense or we'll never git through.
We can dress up, move away, run with another crowd, and try to keep our roots a secret, but our speech won't cooperate. There it is, plain as day for all to hear. Remember? That's what happened to Peter. Backsliding at breakneck speed, the once-loyal disciple tried to fake it by the fire that night they arrested Jesus. But a girl pointed him out. Picture the scene as Mark records it:
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
"You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.
But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean." (Mark 14:66–70 NIV)
He could hide his face, but not his speech. His Galilean "drawl" was clearly distinguishable, even in the wee hours of the morning. So what did he do to convince his accusers otherwise? The next verse answers that question:
He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."
Galilean or Judean . . . now it didn't matter. He spoke words they all understood. Profanity blurted out publicly in any language or dialect makes it clear—even to total strangers—that the one swearing lives at a distance from the living God. Amazing . . . not another person in the crowd that night accused Peter any further. His street speech was sufficiently convincing.
Nobody ever said it better than the teacher from Tarsus:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)
Looking for ways to make your witness more gracious, more winsome? Interested in communicating Christ's love and in building bridges that attract others to Him? Start with your speech . . . and don't worry if folks can guess what part of the country you're from. It's when they would never guess you are a Christian that you've got something to worry about.