Every year, and sometimes more than once a year, the Oxford English Dictionary releases a list of the new words that have been added to its august, learned and respected pages. I was really surprised to find that it was only in 2015 that the word ‘declutter’, as a noun, a verb, and almost every other part of speech, was added to the OED.
‘Decluttering’ has been a major feature of our family life since the middle of last year. It was almost as though, with the news that we would be moving from Sussex to Lincolnshire, and the beginning of all that inevitable ‘decluttering’, the OED decided to give the process that was about to dominate our lives its very own endorsement.
Of course, ‘declutter’ was not the only new word to be added to the OED in August 2015. There was also ‘manspreading’, ‘cupcakery’, ‘wine o’clock’ and ‘awesomesauce’. As I write this, I am desperately trying to think of a way in which these words could be used to improve and enhance my way of communicating with the people I meet every day.
When I travel on public transport I often encounter ‘manspreading’ (apparently, this is the way that men (!) spread out on a seat that is meant for two people so that they do not have to share the space). However, I struggle to think of a reason why such rudeness and selfishness needs to be dignified with a special word of its own.
I am not sure why I would ever want to describe a bakery that produces cup-cakes as a ‘cupcakery’, although I can think of the odd time when the phrase ‘wine o’clock’ might be useful!
I wonder if anyone has any idea what the last of the new words in my list means? ‘Awesomesauce’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the gravy you may be pouring over your roast dinner, nor is it a description of the latest culinary trend to emerge from the kitchens of all those celebrity chefs that grace our televisions. No! ‘Awesomesauce’ is simply another word for ‘excellent’.
It seems strange that my curiosity to discover when the word ‘declutter’ entered the English language led me down such cluttered and unnecessary by-ways.
Of course, there is nothing new about this level of obfuscation! It is so much easier for us to wrap things up in fancy language than to acknowledge the reality of our lives in simple (and frankly honest) terms.
In St Luke’s gospel we read of the call of Levi the tax collector. Two thousand years ago, the Roman Empire used local collaborators as vehicles for raising the funds they needed to finance their occupation of much of the known world. Those tax collectors were the pariahs of the societies in which they lived and worked. They would definitely have been guilty of ‘manspreading’ if there had been such a thing as public transport. However, in just two verses of Luke’s gospel, we read of how someone who had definitely taken the wrong path through life turned all of that around.
Luke tells us that Jesus said to Levi: “Follow me.” Then we are told: “He got up, left everything, and followed him.”
Now isn’t that the ultimate example of ‘decluttering’ one’s life? There are no long and fancy words, no new words had to be invented. There was no rushing to the ‘cupcakery’ to get a few provisions for the journey, and no need to wait until ‘wine o’clock’ to find the strength to follow that ‘awesomesauce’ call from Jesus.
On 15th May the Church will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost (it used to be called ‘Whitsun’). The Church will be remembering the moment when God sent his Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us on our journeys through this life. The Holy Spirit did not come with a load of fancy trappings. The Holy Spirit came ‘pre-decluttered’ as a beacon to guide us into the life that God calls us all to lead.
I pray that you will find the strength to declutter all that stops you living your lives to the full, in the strength of God’s Holy Spirit. Amen.
Revd Stephen Buckman