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Sacred language precious

As a "word person" I enjoy stories like our lead piece on this page today.

Some people are visual.

Some are verbal.

I'm verbal. When the topic is words, I quickly tune in.

And when the topic is "sacred words," I turn up the volume.

I love the King James Bible, even though I often hear an English accent in my brain when I read it. To me, the text sounds like British actors talking.

From Matthew: "Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily."

Am I the only one who hears the voice of Laurence Olivier in there?

For many of us, words make the world go round.

The oldest written word is "becos" — a word for "bread."

The most recent official word is "earmark" — a new addition to Webster in 2009.

And in between those two lies a world of words that scholars constantly sift, searching for golden flakes amid the sand grains.

Look at the guy with the magnifying glass on this page. He's examining every fleck of ink on that scroll hoping to find a microscopic hint that might clarify a sacred sentence.

It goes to show just how precious and scarce sacred language is today.

There was a time when sacred words were as common as pebbles. When Moses opened his mouth, something golden always fell out.

For religious souls, golden words are golden because they've touched by the finger of God.

Writers of mysteries, westerns and romances have to create new works every few months because the old words wear out. But the Bible has been around for thousands of years and — no matter how often you read it — the words hold a freshness, as if they were minted yesterday.

And here's the thing — where I'm going with all this — language itself is sacred. It's a mysterious gift. Speaking is perhaps the most complicated thing a human being can do, and yet 3-year-olds do it. They can't tie their shoes, but they can utter original phrases more intricate than calculus equations.

Language is divine.

It's our use of it that's become debased.

People say, "Hey! Clean up your language!"

What they need to say is, "Hey! Clean up your life."

In a perfect world, every word we uttered would carry the same interest as the ones those scholars seek out in ancient texts.

Sacred words have become so rare, we dig for them as if digging for uranium.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

We could swim in sacred language the way otters swim in the sea. All we need to do is open our eyes, ears and hearts and listen for those words that never grow old — the words that, even when spoken a thousand times, buzz with more meaning and life than this morning's newspaper headlines.

e-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com