Like all things involving texts of some kind or another, the Internet has become a force in the most basic of language tools, the dictionary. Even Mormon use of language has spawned a number of glossaries, dictionaries, lists of terms and jargon, etc., all in an attempt to either further understanding or poke fun. But none of the attempts at a Mormon lexicon have tried to be comprehensive and serious. So I set up Mormon Terms.
I’d been tossing around the idea in my mind since before last May, when I first posted about Mormon jargon in New Words of Mormon (where else but A Motley Vision would you expect posts about Mormon language?) And last month I finally got the site set up and announced it on Times & Seasons.
Mormon Terms is in its infancy still. At the moment, the heart of the site is a list of 1,300 potential terms that may or may not be ‘Mormon’ in some way. [I’m plugging away at defining terms (I try to do 5 a weekday, so if its left to me, it will take a year to finish), and I’m looking for new terms as well. Even though 1,300 is more than any other list of Mormon terms, I don’t think its a very large percentage of what would be included in a comprehensive list.]
But this issue of whether a term is ‘Mormon’ in some way is probably the thorniest problem the site will face. Mormons frequently use a lot of terms in a religious context, most of which are common to all religions. Words like spirituality, God, Christ, worship, revelation, anoint, etc. are used in a lot of religious contexts, and if the meaning of the word is the same, should it be included?
For example, we’ve defined the word apologetics, mostly because it was on one of the lists of Mormon words I used as a source. But I’m not sure it should be included because I don’t think the definition is any different than what you would find in any dictionary. When Mormons use the word apologetics, do we mean anything different than what non-Mormons mean when they use it?
Like all writing, this probably comes down to a question of audience. Perhaps the right answer to this issue is simply who is the audience (or who are the audiences) for this lexicon and what will that audience (or those audiences) expect?
I don’t think I know the answer to this question. But one of the strengths of using a wiki like Mormon Terms on the Internet is that the audience or audiences can help decide this issue. Because the audience can edit the dictionary, the audience will determine what is, or isn’t a Mormon word.
It will be interesting to see the result.
BTW, I just noticed that there is a Wikipedia page for A Motley Vision, thanks to Theric. Now I feel a little like Navin R. Johnson in the scene from the Steve Martin comedy, The Jerk:
The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”¦ I’m somebody now!