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Chapter V. – Reading Blunders and Slips of the Tongue, pp.27-29.

[Book of Blunders Contents]

ANOTHER class of blunders, of which many curious specimens could be given, are those made by illiterate persons, and by children who are only learning to read. I remember at family worship in our own house a little girl reading, when 1st Peter iv. 9 came to her turn – 

   “Use hospitality without girning” 

– a not unhappy rendering. Some of our Highland servants, unfamiliar with English, made so many slips, some of them irresistibly ludicrous, that the practice of reading verse about had to be abandoned. 

A minister at Partick told me that one night, when the chapter was being read at worship, one of the servants read very slowly and precisely as follows:- 

   “And Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve partridges.” 

It came on Mr ——— like the shock of a galvanic battery. he had to dart from the room with his hand upon his mouth to prevent an irreverent explosion. 

Even amongst educated people, most comical blunders are sometimes made, by mere slips of the tongue, with perfectly familiar words. In a Sunday-school with which my father was once connected, a preacher who was present one night and addressed the children, got on admirably till, speaking of sin being destructive to both body and soul, he called it 

   “sody and bowl.” 

When he tried to correct himself, he converted it into 

   “bowl and sody,” 

which made matters worse, and, it is to be feared, put an end to any serious impression that may have been previously made. 

The difficulty in rectifying a verbal slip when once the tongue has got into it must have been felt or noticed by every one. A friend in the U. P. Church who caught himself speaking of 

   “the Popacy,” 

and felt there was something wrong, checked himself, and said – 

   “I mean the Papery!” 

One’s very familiarity with words makes it all the more easy to slip into confusion, especially is the words have been learned by rote, and if one is not thinking of the meaning. I have so often heard one verse of Scripture gliding suddenly into another from this cause, that I can quite understand the man imagining that he was quoting the Bible when he said, 

   “Judas went away and hanged himself; go thou and do likewise.” 

A minster told me of a little girl in the Ragged School, who, unconsciously mixing up two familiar hymns together, began – 

“How doth the little busy bee, 

In a believer’s ear!” 

Nothing, however, can exceed the confusion of sense sometimes made by the misplacing of emphasis in reading aloud. Even in the pulpit, passages of Scripture are often murdered from this cause. 

On one occasion the verse, 

   “And the prophet said to his sons, ‘Saddle me the ass;’ and they saddled him,” 

was read thus:- 

   “And the prophet said unto his sons, ‘Saddle me the ass;’ and they saddled him!” 

One can imagine how the prophet would have looked, if he had been there. 

Spurgeon tells us of another preacher who, in reading the account of the miraculous provision of food for the multitude, made the next clause read – 

   “And they did eat!” 

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