The Berean Expositor
Volume 24 - Page 198 of 211
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Some elements of crooked thinking.
pp. 69 - 72
Robert H. Thouless, in his book "Straight and Crooked Thinking", has rendered a
great service in the cause of truth by exposing some of the elements of "crooked
thinking" that play a considerable part in controversial speaking and writing. In this
article we shall follow, fairly closely, the outline he has given at the end of the book,
together with many of his own illustrations.
(1)  The use of emotionally toned words.--We must be on the look-out for the
difference that exists between "objective" and "emotional" meanings: if we do not,
we are likely, without our knowing it, to be swayed by prejudice. Thouless gives the
well-known example of the declension of the word "firm": I am firm, thou are obstinate,
he is pig-headed.
Prof. Charlton has rightly pointed out, however, that emotionally toned words have
their proper place, especially in poetry. Take for example the lines of Keats from "The
Eve of St. Agnes":--
"Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast."
Notice the emotional value of the words "casement", "gules", "Madeline", "fair"
and "breast". "Gules" is the name used in heraldry to signify red. "Casement" conjures
up an element of romance. Thouless rewrites the lines substituting plain words for
emotional ones, that we may appreciate the difference:--
"Full of this window shone the wintry moon,
Making red marks on Jane's uncoloured chest."
In the exposition of Scripture, we must be on our guard against emotional words, lest
the truth suffer in consequence. Let the reader turn to the Gospel according to Matthew
or Mark, and read the record of the crucifixion. Then let him imagine what a chapter
Dickens would have made of it, and whether it could possibly have been read aloud.
Politics is a fruitful field for the development of emotionally charged words. For
instance, "a fluent and forcible speech delivered by one of our party is eloquent; a
similar speech by one of the opposite party is rhodomontade*". (*Vain boasting - from
the boastful character of Rodomonte, in the Orlande Furioso of Ariosto).
Ruskin's comment upon Whistler's Nocturnes, provides another example:--