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Mike and I went out with some friends last weekend to Swallow at the Hollow, a tasty dinner and fun venue despite the unfortunate moniker. Three country/folky songwriters were performing that night and we stayed for the show. As a result, I’m developing a theory about lyrics, mostly pop and pop country: If the song begins with the word “I,” I’m probably not going to like it (take, for example, most American Idol singles). These lyrics seem easy. A little bit cookie-cutter.

As a corollary, Mike Nelson offered the suggestion that if the song mentions a car by name (mostly Chevy and Ford), it’s not looking good for that one, either. See almost every country song ever.

While I might anticipate backlash from songwriter friends (how many songs have I written, again?), almost all their songs are lyrically strong, with every word pored over and deliberate. I appreciate that about them.


Henceforth, anyone using the following phrases shall be immediately punched in the throat:

“You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
This is almost never used correctly, and when it is, it’s overused.

“It is … and it isn’t.”
Be decisive. “And” has no place in that sentence.

“Bonding [time]”
The concept is good, but the word “bonding” is way too corny for what can happen when people spend time in real community. Applies to any use of the word other than in reference to materials being joined together with glue or other adhesive substance.

“That’s what she said.”
Who am I kidding? This never gets old.

A note: Finding a good word is not to be confused with getting a good word, which is Christian for, “someone shouted something Biblical at me that I needed to hear.”

The good word for today is velleity.

I discovered this word a few years ago and swore to incorporate it into my regular usage, but – and this is truly the height of irony – my dedication to doing so was evidently inferior to my desire to do it. It’s the height of irony because the definition of velleity is just that: the desire to do something that is outweighed by the effort that must be put into actually doing it. It means wishing something without putting forth the effort to pull it off.

I suspect, however, that velleity is not intrinsically bad. The connotation is negative, to be sure (my velleity keeps me on the sofa all weekend rather than out doing something constructive), but I bet there are some things it’s okay to let go of in this fashion. Maybe.


The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar has got an issue with the word “got.” In other news, there’s a Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.

Thanks, Jay.

This is by no means absolute, but in years of editing I’ve come to realize that most of us can simplify and tighten our writing by drastically reducing the frequency of these elements:

  • the word that,” as in, “I know that you are a fruitcake”
  • the word so,” as in, “She was so very embarrassed,” or “So you can see why she flung the cat”
  • the word up,” as in, “Bobbi Jean made up a mess of biscuits” (although perhaps this is a Southern thing, using “up” as an adverb)
  • exclamation points, as in, for the love of Pete, stop ending every third sentence with an exclamation point, and use actual words for emphasis
  • ellipses … as in … I’m kind of … like … really thoughtful … you know … so … I pause a lot …

Kindly welcome the long-overdue “Words and Grammar” category.

There’s a series of commercials on right now for a brand of beer which markets itself with the phrase, “Drinkability.”


You’re trying to convince me to buy your beer and the best argument you can come up with is that it’s drinkable? Meaning it’s wet and its shape conforms to that of the container it’s placed in? That’s the best you can do?

It reminds me of the fast food company whose slogan is, “You gotta eat.” Meaning that you can’t survive without some caloric intake, and we can provide that caloric intake, so you may as well buy our product.

How moving.

Two wonderfully kind, talented, fun, and God-loving people were married this past weekend and the world is a better place because they are now one flesh. As my husband put it amybenso well, God will be glorified more with them together than He would with them apart.

They’re both musicians and one of the highlights of the weekend was the song that Ben wrote for Amy, which he sung at the rehearsal dinner. My favorite line was the last one:

I’m tired of coming over
I just want to come home
Amy, with you
Amy, with you

Cue every woman in the crowd with wet eyes.

You tell me.

  • Bowl Crackers
  • Flecktones
  • Big Head Todd and the Monsters
  • Drivin ‘N’ Cryin
  • Cleveland Steamers
  • Dancing Nancies
  • Free the Hostages

They don’t get a lot of love in churches today, but I adore hymns. I love the rhythm, the timelessness, and especially the words. Martin Luther could write a hymn. With CDs like Passion’s Hymns Ancient and Modern and David Crowder‘s evident reverence, I think they might be staging a comeback.

My hymnal of choice

My hymnal of choice

But the best part of the hymn is the second verse. And the third verse. And the seventh verse, which you probably never sang unless nobody came down in response to the invitation. Sure, you know the first verse to “It Is Well With My Soul,” but do you know the third?

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

What’s your favorite hymn? Look it up here and read some of the other verses. Sheer poetry.

Of moderate irritation to me of late is the question, “So, what’s new with you?” when posed in a social setting with people I haven’t seen in a while. Here’s what that question really means.

If you’re single, they want to know if you’re dating someone.
If you’re dating someone, they want to know if you’re engaged.
If you’re married, they want to know if you’re pregnant.
If you have a child, they want to know if you’re having more children.

If the answer to any of the above is “no,” and thus “What’s new with you?” is answered by, “Not much,” the conversation often ends awkwardly and abruptly. In truth, there’s probably a lot going on with you, but you blank out when seated on the interrogation chair at a wedding reception or baby shower.

To combat this kind of boring and uninformative parlance, I’ve begun to keep a list of questions to ask in these situations:

What are you excited about right now?
What lessons have you learned lately?
What big successes have you had recently?
What is the most fun thing you’ve done since I last saw you?

These almost always precipitate an engaging dialogue, often sending the other person away thinking, consciously or not, that you are a terrific conversationalist.