What’s in a Name?

1. characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing; informal.
2. involving or using conversation.

—Synonyms1, 2. Colloquial, conversational, informal refer to types of speech or to usages not on a formal level. Colloquial is often mistakenly used with a connotation of disapproval, as if it meant “vulgar” or “bad” or “incorrect” usage, whereas it is merely a familiar style used in speaking and writing. Conversational refers to a style used in the oral exchange of ideas, opinions, etc.: an easy conversational style. Informal means without formality, without strict attention to set forms, unceremonious: an informal manner of speaking; it describes the ordinary, everyday language of cultivated speakers.

—Antonyms 1. formal.

This is just another idea. I’ve been searching for a name to define our youth ministry program at Peace. Past failed attempts have seen the likes of “Filter,” “Echo,” “Theory,” “Method,” and “Awaken.” Each one had a logo, and a few even had tagged Scripture verses. All of them…bombed (in the negative sense, in case you’re wondering).

So will “Colloquial” be another failed attempt? Possibly. And I’ll be ok with that. And I’ll continue the search. But hear me out on this one. I think it has some potential.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of “cool.” Everywhere I go I see people either BEING cool, or TRYING to be cool. Sure, some people may accept their lack of “coolness,” others may be oblivious to it, and some may claim to be outside the restrictions of it, but any way you look at it, we’re all in some way affected by the term “cool.”

An online dictionary even said this about the term: “As a slang word expressing generally positive sentiment, it has stayed current (and cool) far longer than most such words.” It said that words like bully, capital, hot, groovy, hep, far-out, rad, tubular, def, and phat have been “consigned to the scrapheap of linguistic history.”

We are so affected by this word that is has even crossed generations…successfully.

So back to my thinking. My question is, why? Why are we obsessed with being cool? And specifically in the context of youth ministry, why are teenagers obsessed with being cool? Clothes, cars, cell phones, hair styles, jewelry, music, and even online blogging sites such as Myspace, all have to be cool. And if it’s not, you don’t fit in. Or you just go your own way. Which is still a form of cool.

You cannot escape it.

Well, I propose that while we cannot escape it, we can respond to it. Not in the sense that we become the opposite of it, and not even that we overcome it, but that we have an understanding of why and how it affects us. And so we become the same, but different. Maybe this is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 9, “I have become all things to all men.”

Which brings me back to “Colloquial.” I began searching for a word that describes this idea that we are called to be different, but the same. This is kind of a foreign concept, so I’ve had a difficult time finding the right word, but I like this word for two reasons.

1. It’s conversational. I recently wrote a blog (called “Notes”) on Facebook about the importance of conversation. Check it out. Basically, I said that meaning in life is found through conversation.

2. It’s informal. But not in a negative way. Above, under synonyms, it says “without strict attention to set forms…an informal manner of speaking; it describes the ordinary, everyday language of cultivated speakers.” To me, this word describes Jesus. Not bound by set forms. Cultivated, yet ordinary.

Same, yet different.

Maybe “colloquial” will be added to our linguistic scrapheap, but hey, it’s worth a shot. Let me know your thoughts!

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