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God’s Word

In the beginning God spoke the Word, and the world was formed. Human language daily images God in the wonder of communication.

My father-in-law, Dr. Daniel Hendriksen, studied and taught the wonder of language as a Professor of Linguistics for 30 years. He is the son of the Reformed pastor, theologian and commentator William Hendriksen. In his retirement, my father-in-law, now 89 years old, has put his reflections into poetic form. In this issue of CC on the wonder of the word I share one of his poems with you to honour his work and our God.                    

God’s Grand Global Grammar Gift
Impartial to Person, Parlance, Prestige, Place or Period
              
God’s Grammar Gift – first reflected in a fledgling’s feat – 
Serves the genteel, articulate, Ivy League elite
Designing daily discourse deemed proper and discreet.
But it also proves prevalent . . . pervasive . . . replete 

Through diverse declarations in a hillfolk lingo,
Threading verse as a Haitian sings a Creole solo,
             
Patterning peer prattle in a provincial patois,
Buttressing barbarisms by a boorish bourgeois,

Entwining twang-tagged, tall tales by a Dixieland lad,
Encircling slang-tossed, tough talk from a Kokomo cad,

Sharing Shakespeare with Shelley, with Shaw und with Schiller,
Shaping sheer chicanery from a shameless shyster,
Structuring Steinbeck’s stories and sculpting scoff from Scrooge,
Stringing stark stupidities by a studio Stooge,

Undergirding good guidance from a godly grandma,
Organizing gruff grumbling by a grumpy grandpa,

Enlacing endless email and Latin litany,
Embracing banter, barbs and a bland banality,

Permeating the parlance of a pompous pedant,
Penetrating the patter of a paltry peasant,

Traversing truth testifying, teasing and tattling,
Tailoring terse telegramming, tweeting and texting,

Encoding low-class Cockney claimed to clash with known norms,
And molding mocked Ebonics much maligned for its forms,

Tracking the tongue of an aged aborigine,
And of the young among his primitive progeny:

By cracking code ‘cross nations before and since Babel,
Each fleeting generation’s frail fledglings prove able
To master most of an intricate syntax anew
(O what lawfully-laced lines they construct and construe!).
This then marks them most remarkably lingually ruled
Before the fortunate are normally formally schooled.

At twenty-two I had no clue of this global view. 
If new to you, may you now view grammar grandly too: 
For free-flowing, fresh-phrased form fit for mind’s decoder
MAGNIFY OUR MAJESTIC MAKER – MASTER MOLDER.     

–Daniel Hendriksen   
Daniel taught Linguistics for over 30 years at Western Michigan University

  • Rev. Tom Wolthuis is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church and the Director of Geneva Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa.

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