Wandering the savage garden…

The Reach for Vocabulary

One of the things I’ve been reading is Analog Days, about the invention and impact of the synthesizer, primarily as driven by Bob Moog (pronounced to rhyme with “rogue,” as it’s a Dutch name). It’s a good read, even if you’re not really into synthesizers much. (I am, so there’s a lot of fascinating history in it.)

One of the things that has come up many, many times in the book is the recounting of early synthesists in the need for a vocabulary. For example, think about how R2-D2 sounds – that sounds like a ‘droid talking, right?

Well… if you couldn’t use the word “‘droid,” how would you describe the sound?

Or imagine a starship flying by; because of movies like Star Wars – by the way, this is an example straight from the book, thank you, even though I’m writing it in my own words and in my own way – because of movies like Star Wars, we know what a spaceship sounds like as it flies by.

Actually, we get it wrong; space has no sound. So the “sound of a spaceship” is actually no sound at all… but because of the convenience and pervasiveness of movies, when we say “what does a spaceship sound like?,” something comes to mind. That’s our vocabulary.

So now, we have a massive socially-driven library of sounds. When we want a sound, we can at least say “It’s sort of like the ‘whoop, whoosh’ in this song, where it goes ‘bee boo bob-o-beep.'” That may not be the sound that we want, but it’s a starting point.

What other vocabularies exist? One of the things I was thinking about – in context, of course, because this is a Christian blog and I’d really like to keep it focused on “Christian” and less on “blog” – was the Christian vocabulary. We use words like “sin” and “redemption” and “sacrifice” and “good” … and we mean specific things by those words, usually, and I wonder sometimes if our vocabulary doesn’t get in the way of our goal.

We get caught up in a message of redemptive grace through faith to rescue us from sin, but … I was trying to think what a nonbeliever would think of all of that.

“Message” might be clear enough, but many Christians might also use “gospel,” which nonbelievers might not understand the same way Christians do.

There’s my non-editing in motion; as I thought about it, “gospel” was far better an example than “message.”

“Redemption” might make no sense at all for a nonbeliever – what is redemption without the accompanying concept of condemnation?

“Grace” usually means something to a Christian, one hopes – what does it mean to a nonbeliever?

What about “through faith,” as in “grace through faith?”

I don’t really have good answers for the differences in vocabulary. After all, I’m a Christian and have been for decades. But reading the book on synthesis got me thinking about the vocabulary, and I wanted to record the thought.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.