Conjunctions and Confusion and Criticism
Read this number out loud:
Don’t worry about the strange looks other people in the room will give you. Just do it.
Did you read “seven thousand, three hundred and twelve”?
Well, you’re wrong. The number actually reads “seven thousand, three hundred twelve.” The word and should not be used after the hundreds place but only to designate a fractional part of a number. For some reason it drives me nuts to hear “six hundred and thirty-five” or “a hundred and three.”
You like using the word and in numbers? Here’s your chance: 3.4 should be read “3 and four tenths.” Use and to separate the whole number from the fractional part. No, I’m not saying “three point four” is wrong, I’m just using the word and correctly in a mathematical context. Please don’t get me started on hyphens (here are the mathematical rules for that if you’re curious).
I probably shouldn’t get so bent out of shape about this, but this morning the and rule had an impact on my life. You see, I’m about 40 chapters behind in my B90X Bible reading so I have come up with a great way to stay motivated and, hopefully, still finish the entire Bible by September 13:
- Skip ahead to where I should be. For some reason it is very discouraging for me to read what I should have read a few days ago so I just skipped those 40 chapters and joined up where I should have been had I not been slacking.
- Listen to the parts I missed. I am using the YouVersion app on my iPad and the time I spend doing things I really don’t have to think about (showering, shaving, getting dressed, etc.) to listen to the passages I missed. I have really enjoyed listening to about six chapters a day.
The plan was working flawlessly until this morning when I was listening to Ezra 2. The guy with the really cool accent who was reading to me kept throwing the and into the numbers. Not all of the numbers, mind you, but he was blatantly butchering the English language on about fifty percent of them. As I was shaving, this was all I could think about. My mind went from critiquing Max McClean’s recording to my own six-year-old daughter’s misuse of the conjunction to her school teachers’ obvious failures to my need to correct the world on proper mathematical grammar to outlining this blog post. Before I knew it I was shaved, dressed, and putting on my shoes…that’s when I heard Mr. McClean say “Ezra chapter five.”
I missed two and two thirds chapters of the book of Ezra because I was nitpicking a guy’s reading! I have no clue what happened in those chapters. I have no idea what God wanted me to glean from that passage of scripture. I completely missed it! So maybe I shouldn’t be worried about changing the way the English-speaking world says three-digit numbers. Maybe I should worry about not letting my critical mind get between me and God’s Word.
After I hit pause (I didn’t want to make the same mistake again), I thought about how I’ve done the same thing with preachers and teachers. How many times have I critiqued their grammar, speaking styles, word choice, or illustrations to the point that I completely missed what God had for me that day? How much more could I learn if I start listening to the real Teacher rather than the way the messenger presents His truth? All of this was racing through my mind while I tied my shoes and paid no attention to what my hands were doing. After all, they’ve done it thousands of times. I don’t want to listen to God’s messages for me the same way I tie my shoes.