In the beginning there was the word, and it was good

Earlier this year was the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. It would be a strange Communications-Skills business that didn’t mark that anniversary – from which you’ll gather that I’m talking about the acknowledged brilliance of the book as literature: written English at its best.

For instance, it’s sobering to think of how many expressions used wherever English is spoken have emanated from the “King James”. We’d hardly have a language without them. It’s astonishing. Don’t believe me? Here are some illustrations:

  • A broken heart
  • Bite the dust
  • Eat Drink and be Merry
  • Go the extra mile
  • Holier than thou
  • Letter of the law
  • Nothing new under the sun
  • Put words in one’s mouth
  • See eye-to-eye
  • Sign of the times
  • The powers that be
  • Wheels within wheels
  • Writing on the wall

There are scores. If you want to see more, and where they come from, go to this link.

The beauty of them – and of the way the book is written generally (with allowance for some archaic language) – is that they’re written in what these days we call “Plain Language”. Plain, simple, straightforward, easy-to-understand, natural, conversational, uncomplicated. A million miles from what we see so often on our business-writing courses. Like these horrors:

“We are leveraging our messaging leadership to ensure a commercially viable transition path to a high volume, robust and innovative IMS messaging architecture.”

Or what about:

“Delegates will not only be shown how to’Develop and lead a superior, synergistic enterprise to the new millennium’ but will also be introduced to ‘Elevation: the art, science and strategy of the radical profit leap’ and ”Shoddipush”: the deadly syndrome that white-ants most businesses.”

The language manglers responsible for this gibberish should be ashamed – and should learn. Or as the King James says: “Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction …”. Oddly enough, that one never quite caught on, but you get the point …

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