Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

choirs and preaching to them

I'm feeling a bit of pressure to put nice pictures at the start of my blog posts because the new homepage layout features whichever picture is first. Corpus tables make boring pictures, so I am using this as an excuse to share with you a delightful animation, Choir Tour:

CHOIR TOUR from Atom Art on Vimeo.

So, with that out of the way, @gwynf has asked me about preach to the choir versus preach to the converted, which was a nice coincidence because I'd recently looked it up myself. Either phrase means 'pointlessly make an argument to those who already agree with your point of view'. I felt like I've always said converted and that I'd learned choir in the UK. I think the first of those feelings is accurate (I do believe converted is what my mom said and it is what I say), the second probably isn't, since choir is clearly the preferred American phrasing:
From GloWBE corpus

Preach to the congregation is also found in BrE, but in much, much smaller numbers. (In this corpus: three!) A related BrE expression is sing from the same hymn sheet i.e. 'share an opinion or position'. Both AmE and BrE also have sing the same song/tune. (Thanks for pointing that out @UnexpectedBag.)

Maybe (and I know I'm going to make enemies here) I like converted better because I mostly really don't care for choral music. (Sometimes it's less the music that's the problem than the choir.) I don't want to preach to the choir because if I pay them too much attention they might guilt me into going to their charity concert at Christmastime and sitting miserably through it, thinking "I could die later today and I will have wasted my last hours here." I know I shouldn't admit to not liking choirs. They're like mobs. They could (orig. AmE) beat me up.

Anyhow, the word choir is worth discussing too. In BrE there are choirs all over the place. Many of my friends (who will soon be beating me up) are in them. And many, many of them are non-religious. Community choirs they're called, and they do everything from classical to indie music to gospel (for the music, not necessarily for the gospel). BBC (BrE) programmes Last Choir Standing, The Choir, and The Naked Choir give an inkling of the popularity of choral singing as a secular activity.

In the US, choir is more associated with church-affiliated groups and maybe some classical ones. My school didn't have a choir, it had a chorus. Other terms like chorale and glee club give a sense that the group is singing works that are not necessarily choral in origin. (At least, that's the sense they give me--but there's nothing to stop a chorus from singing non-choral works either. My school chorus memories are of a bunch of kids belting out cheesy Christmas songs at the tops of our lungs with no attention to cooperation or harmony.) Various websites out there argue about the differences between these various terms. The fact that they have to argue probably means that the terms aren't being used in any consistent way. I would take chorale and glee club to be much more old-fashioned terms.

A look at statistically-strongly-American (pay attention to the green ones) versus statistically-strongly-British words before choir in the Corpus of Global Web-Based English shows that choir gets more of a (orig. AmE) workout in BrE:

But then there's (AmE) show choir, a type of non-religious school singing-and-dancing group that was brought to the world's attention by the television (AmE) show Glee. I've written about that before--so please see/discuss at that old post.

Before I (AmE) go hide (BrE/some AmE go and hide) from the angry singing mobs, I'll just note that I'm on BBC Radio 3's The Verb this Friday (11 Nov) at 22.00 (UK time). It's available online for a month afterward. I think we'll be talking about words for the generations, so to speak.

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bangers and bashers

Some actual work (of the publish-or-perish variety) has been encroaching on my maternity leave, which has left me little time for blogging...but here's a quickie.

Channel 4 has been advertising a documentary program(me) called 'Baby Bible Bashers'. Now, to American ears, this sounds like it could be about miniature Richard Dawkinses or Madalyn Murray O'Hairs, since we're used to hearing the word basher in such contexts as gay basher--i.e. someone who hates and beats up gay people. In BrE, however, Bible basher is the equivalent of AmE Bible banger--i.e. a fundamentalist an evangelical Christian (giving the image of a person who thumps their Bible while preaching). The program(me) seems to be about American child preachers. No surprise there, really, but it strikes me as ironic that the name of the documentary paints them as the opposite of what they are in their own dialect.

According to the OED (1989), both Bible basher and Bible banger are originally Australian/New Zealand terms, and the UK equivalent would be Bible pounder, Bible puncher or Bible thumper (the last of these would work in AmE too). I'd expect that this information will be updated significantly in the new edition (though it'll take them a while to get to B, as they started with M), to reflect the spread of the terms (a)round the globe. In the meantime, all of the OED's examples of Bible banger are antipodean.

Banger has other meanings in BrE. It can be a sausage (often in the dish bangers and mash), a small firecracker, or an old and poorly maintained car.
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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)