Fun with Words

For any of you who may have heard of the “wandering Armenian” on the First Sunday of Lent, you should know that that’s the wrong country. Where I was (no, not the abbey) it was, “My father was a wandering American.”

Evening office for the first Sunday of Lent at the abbey has “Spare us, O Lord” as the response to the petitions. Some years ago the prayer leader, after reading all the petitions in the book (“From pride and arrogance,” etc.), added a worthy petition of his own. And so we dutifully gave our appointed response to this: “For vocations to the priesthood in our monastery.”

A brother monk tells me that since we use too little inclusive God language in our liturgy, he especially appreciates the office collect which begins, “O God, surely…”  [That one may not work in regions with purer English pronunciation than Minnesota.]

I’m sure none of this sort of thing first began with Vatican II or the vernacular. Just think of “Ego te baptizo in nomine Patria et Filia…” of medieval lore. (That would be the Fatherland and the Daughter.) I’m just glad that now the congregation is let in on the humor.



  1. Each one of the 3 lectors I heard had the correct pronunciation (1st time in several years!!)
    But I always laugh when I remember the general intercessions introduced this way:” Our response today is …(according to local custom)
    Deacon: May we turn away from sin, we pray to the Lord
    All: According to local custom

  2. Then there is the inimitable “flaming brazier” of the pre-1998 Lectionary, often rendered as “flaming brassiere”.

    And who can forget: Elisha? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

    Oh, on the proactive front, while certain folks are afraid of the word “dew”, it might help to pronounce it as singers would, “dyoo”….

    1. Broadcasters as well use “dyoo”.

      As for Elisha, I remember, in my days at St. Paul’s in Cambridge, all of us lectors receiving the NAB dictionary/concordance to assist us in pronunciations. Sure enough, I had a reading where Elijah and Elisha are in the same reading — with indistinguishable pronunciations! Ah, for the days of the Vulgate, with Elias and Eliseus — at least we could tell who was who!

      1. I once knew an OT professor who, when he would train readers in local parishes, was insistent on Hebrew pronunciations so that “Eliah” would not be confused with Elisha. “Otherwise,” he’d say, “you’re never sure whose mantle is resting on whom.”

  3. And how many times have we all heard “A reading from the epistle of Saint Paul to the Filipinos” or “to the Galoshes”?

    (In the latter case, I’m never sure if it’s supposed to be Colossians, or Galatians, until we get into the text!)

  4. Strange you should mention this! Yes… we actually had a “wandering Armenian” in the reading at our 7:00PM Saturday Mass.

    My other two favorites…in the Prayer of the Faithful

    “For the intentions of our Prayerish Pare line” (instead of “parish prayer-line”)


    “For those sick of our parish, to whom we bring the Eucharist each Sunday”

  5. For the medically minded, “St Paul’s letter to the Fallopians….” is even better than the Filipinos (even if many of the latter are working in our hospitals), not to mention “A reading from the book of Deuterectomy”.

    “A reading from the book of Perverts” prefaced one lector’s proclamation. The assembly, who had no text in front of them, sat up and listened to the Word of God in a way that they had probably never listened before. It took a few lines before it dawned on them that he must have meant “Proverbs”.

  6. Palm Sunday: Give us Barbaro! and many other adaptations.
    I always carefully and slowly pronounce on Ash Wednesday…Bless….these….ashes.

    The liturgical urban legend: Please rise and great our celebrant by singing Hail Holy Queen.

  7. I had a confrere, whose roots were in a working class area of Dublin, and who had trouble with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, never mind Nebuchudanezzar(?). It was a cold, wet Irish morning and near the end of the reading he was heard to proclaim, “And the tree young wans said to the auld fella….”. Our novice master had a hard time smothering a smile and attempting to show displeasure at the same time.
    I’ve also come across one or two celebrants were gay, and actually “Hail Holy Queen”, would have fitted them perfectly as the processed in wearing full, flowing vestments. And their Eucharists were also wonderful celebrations, and one was an excellent homilist.

  8. May I add a variation from Down Under? At a Christmas young people’s liturgy last year the teenage reader, confronted with Quirinius the Governor of Syria, paused in confusion and then told us it was Qantas, which many of you will recognise as Australia’s major airline.

  9. Oh, there are so many. From the offertory prayer: “through your goodness we have thi__ spread to offer… we have thi__swine to offer.” There’s nothing like a good spread with pork as the main course.

    Again We Keep This Solemn Feast er, Fast…

    And my new favorite closing verse as people are leaving Mass early, “Troubled souls, why do you scatter / Like a crowd of frightened sheep?”

  10. Of course I’m looking forward to the new memorial acclamation,
    “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection…” which will be rendered “save-a-savior.” Is that like save the whales?

  11. Not from the lectionary, but in similar vein, I should also have mentioned the nineteenth/early twentieth English translation of a Schutz Passion which had the evangelist singing “Christ in a…basement”.

    1. Stainer’s Crucifixion gives the same problem to the Tenor when he has to sing, affectingly: “Here in a basement”.

  12. A friend tells me of engaged couple who requested John 12:14 on their liturgy planning form. He wonders what they meant. Jn 12:14 NAB is: “Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written.”

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