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Hallo again to all.

We often note the little mottoes that dot the world around us, whether they be an institutional motto that bears the gravitas of age and tradition (Dominus illuminatio mea) or an advert slogan that weasels its way into the ear. Americans of a certain generation almost surely remember an ad involving three ridiculous talking frogs and beer, and likewise British readers will know the reference that 'every little helps'. The power of the motto also inspires new brands and products to find ways of dragooning the auctoritas of Latin into service of their goals. Sometimes it is even well-composed Latin. Sometimes it is less so (cf. the many variations of doggerel Latin revolving around illegitimi non carborundum).Humpty Dumpyty and Alice (Tenniel)

Of course, saying that words matter is beyond trite. It would be still worse to say, as a good deconstructionist might, that words have no meaning because they can have any meaning we assign to them. Humpty Dumpty's silly assertion in 'Through the Looking-Glass' that words mean just what he chooses them to mean, and no more, is just that: a patently silly assertion.* A slogan, motto, saying, or pithy comment can gain layers of meaning that we never intended. 'Peace in our time' might sound lovely, bereft of who said it, and when.

These phrases are symbols that bear more weight than a handful of words seems capable. They mean both what they choose to mean, and so much more, freighted with memories of those who coined them, those who use them, and those who hear them. The past few decades have not been easy to the Anglican Communion, but we are reminded of the saying that wreathes the Anglican compass rose—itself a symbol tying up geography and marine tradition: καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς. 'And you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free', a phrase found in John's gospel, was used by Canon Edward West, of St John the Divine, New York City in his design for the compass.

We suspect many readers know this, or at least they are familiar with the English translation of the Greek motto. It was an inspired (in more than one sense of the word) choice for a church that proclaims itself both world wide and apostolic, tying together the truth of a map's compass, the Truth, which Jesus takes as a name for Himself in John, and the Gospel in summary. All in nine-ish words, less if you decide not to be fussy about articles. It is a goodly reminder to keep doing the Lord's work in the trust that the truth is there, and we will get closer to it. Eventually.

In a world of short jingles deliberately shorn of context—one need merely think of car advertisements, which seem to be dreadful in every language and creed—it is refreshing to think of those bons mots that have more depth. We hope you can spend some time looking with new eyes for the stock and not so stock phrases surrounding you, whether in the food aisle or the plaques that surround your parish church.

See you next week.

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16 July 2017

* We feel that xkcd, an online comic that touches on science, computing, and hipsteriana, captures this absurdity well.

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