“Eschew obfuscation.” I read that phrase and laughed. I think it was in Readers’ Digest that I first read it many decades ago. I would make little signs with that phrase, and post them in my workspace or office. I wanted to see who might come in, read the sign and then laugh out loud or chuckle a bit. That didn’t happen very often. Maybe it was too subtle, just posting it like that. Maybe I should have said, “Hey, what do you think of that?” while pointing at the wall.
Just in case you’re not laughing yet, here’s how the dictionary defines these two gems:
es·chew | əsˈCHo͞o, iˈSHo͞o |verb [with object]
deliberately avoid using; abstain from:
ob·fus·ca·tion | ˌäbfəˈskāSH(ə)n |noun
the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible
OK, now you’re rolling on the floor with laughter. No? Still too subtle I guess. But no less important considering the state of verbal communication today. Not speaking of lies here, but about speech that is deliberately unclear or unintelligible. The world is full of it. Why don’t people just say what they mean? Use one-syllable words? Throw in some punctuation? End a sentence already!
For instance, listen to a politician speak; either party. “Steps are being taken to protect the rights of citizens to speak and assemble while making certain that all applicable health safeguards are put into practice.” Which is it? Rights or safeguards? What steps? If, after a politician speaks, you have to scratch your head, you’ve just experienced obfuscation. A ‘climate scientist’ says, “…it’s possible therefore that there may be a significant increase in global temperatures by (pick a year) which may lead to wholesale changes in the climate that could threaten life as we know it, unless we (do something) to stop it right now”. Where I live, near Lake Michigan, we were warned just a few years ago that climate change would lower the water level of lake to “unprecedented” lows. But today, all Wisconsin government officials are begging for federal money to help lakeshore erosion caused by the highest lake levels in recent history. “Possible”, “may be”, and “could” are all weasel words which generally mean “I haven’t a clue”.
It’s possible, even in preaching, to lose your way in an abundance of words. Certain “progressive” types, substituting their human reason for biblical truth, can use familiar sounding words to mean exactly the opposite of what the Bible states quite clearly.
J. Gresham Machen, in his book Christianity & Liberalism (written in 1923) has this to say about that type of preacher, “He offends, therefore, against the fundamental principle of truthfulness in language. According to that fundamental principle, language is truthful, not when meaning attached to the words by the speaker, but when the meaning intended to be produced in the mind of the particular person addressed, is in accordance with the facts.” I had to read that a couple of times because the language is direct in an old-fashioned way. But the two key words are “truthful” and “facts”.
I like what the how Apostle Paul writes:
“For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (CSB)
There it is, the whole gospel in one sentence. Not one weasel word. How hard can it be to just hear this, believe this, and repeat this?
My little sign reminds me when I speak (or write), to be clear and precise. And to listen for the same when others speak.