By Cecil Willis
How’s That Again?
Some of us country boys really get ourselves in trouble when we try to use too many large words. Every once in a while, we exceed the limit of our vocabulary. And it just happened to me! In the December 12th issue of Truth Magazine I made reference to Brother James W. Adams’ “inimical way” of writing the truth. The word I should have used to convey the thought intended was “inimitable.” James W. Adams does have an “inimitable way” of writing the truth. The word “inimitable” means “not capable of being imitated; being beyond imitation.”
But unfortunately, I used the word “inimical, ” which has an entirely different meaning. I am hurrying to get this correction written before Brother Adams has had time to write me about the blunder! When Steve Wolfgang yesterday called the blunder to my attention, I said “I am going to have to get out my big dictionary in order to get out of that!” But the big dictionary doesn’t help me either. Anyway you look at it, “inimical” means “having the disposition or temper of an enemy; viewing with disfavor; hostile.” Now quite a few of Brother Adams’ “unfriendly friends” would say that I inadvertently used the correct adjective to describe his writing style.
Jestingly, I told Brother Wolfgang that the two words were on the same page and in the same column of my dictionary. Furthermore, the different inflections of the two words adjoin one another. But the two words are poles apart, insofar as meaning is concerned. I apologize to Brother Adams for choosing the wrong word to describe his admirable writing ability and style. Oh, there are times when I wish I could say, “But my secretary did it, ” or “The typesetter made a mistake and the proofreaders overlooked it.” But neither excuse will work in this instance. Brother Willis himself is going to have to accept full “credit” (?) for this blunder.
I guess I could say that what I meant to say was that Brother James W. Adams is “inimical to that heresy,” which is one of the illustrations that Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary gives of the proper usage of the word “inimical.” Toward every heresy, and particularly toward heresies that recently have arisen among us, may it be said that Brother James Adams has “the disposition or temper of an enemy.” He views “with disfavor” and is “hostile” toward every teacher of error. Indeed, false doctrine is completely “inimical” to everything for which Brother Adams has stood throughout his. life as a preacher.
Now what makes my embarrassing blunder all the more inexcusable is the fact that I must confess that I knew the meaning of both words (really, I did!!). But somehow the similarity in sound must have caused me to overlook their great difference in meaning. The moral to this little article is simply this: “Brother Willis, you had better consult your dictionary a little more often.” This is nearly as embarrassing as my misspelling of the word “Alleged” in the title of an article written for a “Special Issue” of the Gospel Guardian several years ago. Having discovered my error in spelling (I spelled it “Alledged”), I was just sure the erudite editor of the Gospel Guardian would correct my mistake. But he let it slip through also. So I must continue in my unending search to grab up all those issues of the Guardian, lest my ignorance be further exposed. I just hope that Brother Adams will not now write me “inimically” regarding my failure to use the correct word, “inimitable.” If he were to do so, that could hurt!
Apology No. 2
While I am “confessing,” I might just as well confess that Brother Bill Sexton has written to tell me that the article I published under my name in the November 28th issue of Truth Magazine was really an article that I had borrowed out of Pat Hardeman’s book of Radio Sermons. In the preface to that article, I stated that some radio sermon manuscripts that I used twenty years ago were going to be used. I recited Luther Blackmon’s definition of originality as being “the art of forgetting where you got it.” One of the reasons why I have not published any of those manuscripts before was because I did not document some quotations used in them, and knew that a few times I had used entirely another man’s sermon. Brother G. K. Wallace said he was once accused of having preached one of N. B. Hardeman’s sermons, and Wallace replied: “I did no such thing. That was my sermon; I bought it in a book, and paid $3.00 for the book.” And of some of those N. B. Hardeman Tabernacle sermons, one could add, “And Hardeman borrowed them from J. W. McGarvey’s book of sermons.”
There is likely very little that is really original about any of us. There are some men’s material which I can use nearly as prepared, and there are other men whose material just leaves me cold, and from which I can get little or nothing of use to me. However, honesty demands that we give credit where credit is due, and when we know that the material was prepared by another. All of us have preached borrowed sermon outlines. But to borrow and to attribute to oneself something written by another is theft. Had I ever thought back then of using any of that material in other ways later on, I would have documented it better, and certainly would never have published it under my own name, as though I authored it. But these manuscripts were prepared for radio usage. I really thought I had deleted the ones I did not write myself. If you find that “Homer” (that’s my first name!) nods again, please write me about it.
Brother Roy E. Stephens of Brownwood, Texas sent me the following article, written, it would appear, for just such an occasion as this.
“Brother Willis had some interesting remarks recently on the `kidnapping,’ or literary theft of the writings of others: that is, plagiarism. When Kipling was accused of literary theft, he once wrote:
When ‘Omer smote his blooming lyre
‘ed ‘eard men sing by land and sea
And what he thought he might require
‘e went and took, the same as me.
The market girls, the fishermen
The shepherds and the sailors too
They ‘eard old songs turn up again
But kept it quiet, same as you.
They knew ‘e stole. ‘e knew they knowed.
They didn’t tell nor make a fuss.
But winked at ‘Omer down the road
And ‘e winked back, the same as us.
“In preaching and writing, I often suggest that all work and no plagiarism, makes a dull speech, and if plagiarism is a sin, then many a sermon is sinful. Have you noticed that modern music is usually played so fast it is hard to tell what classical composer it was stolen from? And certainly honesty requires that we give credit to a person from whom we received an idea or a sermon, but then if we did, the person he got it from might be in the audience. If Luther’s definition of originality is right, that it is the art of forgetting where you got it, I am most certainly original. Everything above was, one time in the past, taken from the writings of others.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 13, pp. 204-205
February 6, 1975