Because of a slight misunderstanding not too long ago, my husband and I ended up at the right restaurant…but the wrong location. My son and the rest of the entourage were at another spot. 

One night at dinner, one of the kids heard enough of the table talk to make a ridiculous summation of our conversation. It caused everyone to laugh….but it was no laughing matter to her. 

On another occasion, my daughter and granddaughter were having lunch at a little restaurant [hmmmm… as I write, I notice a food theme developing here…] when she misheard a part of our conversation. When she repeated what she thought she had heard, her loud misuse of our words caused a lot of heads to turn, and my daughter and I to turn five shades of red.

The latest in our family is having one of the little ones asking where the swine flew, when she came in on a conversation, not knowing the topic or the meaning of those words.

What about those times when a word which can mean several different things is used incorrectly, and the intended meaning is lost between family, friends, or associates? Or moments of baffled quiet or intense wondering, all because wrong words are used?

We have even played games with words, talking and laughing about such things as:

  • Read, reed, reid or flu, flue, flew.  All pronounced the same, but spelled differently
  • “Cargo” is used for ships that cart items across water while “shipment” is used for carting those same items by land
  • “When pigs fly” [never, that we know of], “Gag me with a spoon” [who in their right mind would do that to themselves or another person?], “a chip off the old block” and “dead as a door nail”[and exactly how dead is a door nail?]

So much of what we say and hear depends not only on how much we’re paying attention, but on how much we understand the intended meaning.  Cliché’s, for example, play a large part in our vocabulary but all parties need to know what they mean. Sorting through words in our mind, we can settle on the intended meaning of a word by how it is spelled, or how it is used in the context of a sentence. We have to pay attention.

I’ve thought, too, of words that mean little or nothing to us until there is reason to pay attention. Even a second thought is of no concern until things get shaken up. Then we perk up, think about the words, even ponder over each syllable and every possible meaning- if it helps us make sense of important things.

Because the “panic of the moment” in this world is swine flu, a lot of people are checking up on this viral illness. Some are making a bit of quiet preparation, some just reading about it, and a few are dealing with the heart wrenching affects of this illness in their own family. Now swine flu is getting some attention.

We are living in times when many perils are pounding on us, with forecast of more to come. When I think of the term “Last Days”, of the trials and difficulties about which we have been forewarned, and of the counsel we have been given for so many years, I question how much more time I might have wanted to ponder over the words carefully and lovingly given over the years. Oh, I have done my homework to have emergency preparedness in place, I have some “extras” here and there. I am making a habit of attending the temple more often for my spiritual preparation.

But I wonder:  How many more terms will seem to have much different/more meaning in the days and years to come? What words will get my attention that might have slid off my internal radar? I am not sure I can afford to misunderstand the words of our General Authorities concerning the times in which we live. Nor can I afford to take lightly the words in the Holy Scriptures – conditions and concerns foretold so long before this last dispensation even arrived.  The Lord and his prophets do not speak in clichés. The words are plain and the meaning is clear when we have ears to hear.

Setting aside panic or worry, there is peace in preparation and in understanding. There is safety in getting the words right, rather than mixing them up. More than embarrassment or inconvenience, it may save our life- temporally, spiritually, or both.

Unlike a little child, I cannot afford to mix-match words or wander off in some new direction with the words our leaders offer. Nor can I, because of personal agenda or lack of enthusiasm, tune out the words I don’t like – so that it better appeals to me, yet loses the significance of the message.

We have a few interesting issues in our family from time to time, trying to make sure we understand one another. Some of the concerns surrounding miscommunication are funny. Some are far from it. I vote for fewer times of frustration and more times of calm in our family setting.

Of more significance are the issues of understanding, our written and spoken directions from the Lord, in whatever form they come to us. I figure it’s worth a few extra thoughts for all of us, as we move ahead in these “great and dreadful” last days, to pay close attention to the things that matter most. It will save us from some of the perils of miscommunication, and make our lives a little bit easier.  “Easier said than done”? “No time like the present” to find out!