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by Christopher Mudiappahpillai

People often ask me why I make such a big deal when it comes to words and spelling and grammar and punctuation and, as the case may be, lyrics. And I suppose, more often than not, my doing so gets written off – with a shake of the head – as one of the many peculiarities that make up the Chris.

Truthfully, I have no real response to such questions. But when I think back on it, it seems as if I’ve always been enamoured by such things. Words – English words – have been my companions for as long as I can remember: from the rhymes I learned as a toddler, to the Tintin and Asterix comics I brought with me from Sri Lanka, to the songs we sang in elementary school, to the short stories we had to write in junior high, to the plays and essays of high school, to the work that I try to do now, in university.

And while I do appreciate the ability of other languages, it seems to me that English lends itself especially well to verse and rhyme and almost anything else you might want to do with it. But if you’re not careful in choosing your words, you can also cause a lot of pain, or just good old-fashioned confusion.

The following is a stanza from a song we’ve been singing recently in my church:

Day By Day
Karolina W. Sandell-Berg / Oskar Ahnfelt

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

If you read it carefully, you should have – I hope – noticed that the second half makes very little sense. “It’s part of pain and pleasure”? What’s part of pain and pleausure? But, if you take out the apostrophe in the “it’s”, everything falls into place.

Now I realise that the above is most probably a typographical error. But it’s the kind that makes nonsense out of something that is otherwise very beautiful.

As for the people that have been singing the song without even noticing that it makes no sense… That just leaves me shaking my head.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous #
    November 1, 2005

    Indeed, that’s a very clever catch. I suppose the “it” is referring to the day; each day has a mixture of pain and pleasure. Alas, I never pay close enough attention to lyrics (or the sermon for that matter).

    Johnny P

    P.S
    I hope I got the punctuation right in this post.

  2. November 1, 2005

    You’re right, the “it” is the “day”.

    But I suspect that very few people know that. And I too am guilty of more often than not just singing songs without thinking about what they mean.

    And really, it wasn’t meant to be clever at all.

  3. November 2, 2005

    Tintin was good but Asterix rocks. I remember laughing out loud everytime I read those comics, especially at the names that described their lot in life. Until recently, I read them in Chapters whenever my dear wife dragged me in and spent many unrecoverable minutes of my life looking around…now I have to ensure the wee one doesn’t get herself in trouble.

  4. November 2, 2005

    I was sitting in my medieval philosophy class today and almost burst out laughing when my prof mentioned the Visgoths and Ostragoths…

    Good ol’ Asterix… My mental images of that period of history are permenantly coloured comic.

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