Linguistics and Liars

spkwaveA Southern Gospel Revival is a band that I like.  Ben Hester sings and plays guitar for this group, and he gives a fine performance of the song In the Sweet By and By.

As I was listening to this song this morning, it reminded me of an incident at the Kansas State Fair.  I was watching a demonstration and closely listening to the fine-honed monologue of the salesman.  As he finished his demonstration, he displayed a toothy grin and waved to us saying:  “This is the end of our demonstration, so I want to say “bye-bye,” and I want to thank you for coming.  Bye now!”

His use of the word “bye” was a clever display of linguistics and the subtle use of a homophone.  On one level the crowd was thinking:  “Gee what a nice man to say good-bye like that.”  On another level, however, his message was, “I want to say buy-buy . . . buy my product now!”

I had a similar experience at the Home Show.  There was a booth touting the warm feeling of fleece and the benefits of wool, and they even had a little pen with a ewe and her lambs.  I smiled when I heard the salesman say:  “Every ewe here knows how important it is to keep her babies warm.”  The message he was sending was not focused on the “ewes” but the “yous” in the crowd—“You mothers want to keep your babies warm, so buy this fleece blanket.”

When Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, he warned them of linguistics and liars and of people who would use “smooth words and flattering speech to deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:18).”  This verse has also been rendered as “enticing words” and “pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.”

I don’t have anything to sell, and I’m sending only one message:  Bye for now, and take a minute or two to listen to In The Sweet By and By.

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