The. Death. of. Nuance. in. the. English. Language.


Nuance. is. like. the. deadest. ever.

Question: Are we in the business of communicating in sentences anymore, or is everyone just practicing for a pointillism art project?

I believe our culture is witnessing the death of nuance.  Nothing is worth saying unless it is “the best ever”.  We end our stories with the punctuation, “It was the worst ever!” Our language is becoming flat, and what was once a wide spectrum has become two mere polar opposites from which to choose.

We can blame email, facebook, twitter, or whatever other technologies have forced us into dumbing down our dialogue with other humans.  However, I believe our culture’s witch-hunting ways have had a lot to do with it.  Political correctness and fear of misunderstanding have skewered, flambéed, and burnt our words to a crisp.  Nuance is an unforgivable sin.  The less our words mean, the better. The less they are intended to mean in the first place, the less fodder for the critics and intentional misinterpreters.

Why does this matter to the Christian?  Well, if we believe in inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible it means we believe every word is filled with Holy Spirit-guided meaning.  What is more, the Bible is a work of poetry compared to the flatness of our modern day speech.  As we lose our ability to discern nuance, we lose our ability to read the Bible.  It is because of our flat understanding of language that we misunderstand the Gospel writers and their rich interpretation and adaptation of the Old Testament.  In the book of John, we insist that the word “light” must mean only one thing in each occurrence, and the thought that it could have multi-dimensional and intertwining meanings doesn’t even cross our mind.  Indeed, the Bible’s words are becoming boring–and the fault is ours not God’s.

So what do we do?  We have to cultivate whatever ability may be left.  I would highly recommend Dr. T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach.  He has some incredible insights, and he has great recommendations including journaling, intense writing, and reading poetry.  Unfortunately for us, our culture is no help.  What used to come naturally to mankind is becoming a cultivated and rare gift.

I can sense your toes curling at the “post-modern” feel to what I have said.  I’ll just leave it at that…a little nuance never killed anyone, right?

(photo credit)

Published by Chad C. Ashby

Instructor of Literature, Math, and Theology at Greenville Classical Academy Greenville, SC

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