Thursday, March 12, 2015

What did the sheep say to the Good Shepherd?

            A student can earn a bonus point on my quiz or test by drawing a picture related to the questions or the material studied. Being the antonym of “artist” myself, I’m very generous in my definition of “picture.” I’m stuck in Stick Figures 101, so I expect and accept them and I’m impressed when I get something better. Some students still haven’t received their quizzes back because I’m saving their artwork in case they become famous.
            Over the last sixteen years, I’ve awarded these bonus points in Bible, U.S. History, English Literature, and even vocabulary. I’m possibly the only teacher you may hear laughing while grading tests. Last year a talented student drew a picture of an explorer with a beautiful woman on each arm; the caption read:  Columbus, Nina, and Santa Maria.
            My juniors at SCA are studying the Gospel of John. (Well, to be realistic, I’m teaching it and some of them are studying it.) They recently took a quiz on my outline of John and were, as usual, invited to sketch for a bonus point. A significant feature of John’s Gospel is the list of “I am” metaphors Jesus uses. One girl drew a stick figure shepherd saying, “I am the good shepherd,” and a tiny stick lamb responding, “Baa.”
I liked it. And then I started thinking more deeply about baa. Being a word-ist in inverse proportion to being an artist, spelling is a concern of mine. (Well, to be honest, spelling is more of an obsession than a concern.) Don’t get me started or I will gleefully tell you about the famous Christian author who mixes up reign, rain, and rein in her best-selling fiction.
So I started thinking of baa’s homophone, bah. A homophone, you surely remember, is “a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air.” * I visited to be sure I understood the difference before posting the information on a blog that could go viral. Here’s what I found:
verb (used without object), baaed, baaing.
1. to make the sound of a sheep; bleat.
2. the bleating cry of a sheep. *

1. an expression of contempt or disgust*
            Then I started thinking even more deeply about baa and bah.
            What did the sheep say to the Good Shepherd? Did the animal cry out with a bleat, which might be interpreted to mean, “I need a shepherd to lead me and feed me. I will follow you”? Or did he dismiss the shepherd with a contemptuous “bah!” which might be interpreted to mean, “I don’t need you. I can do life on my own”?
            How do I respond to the Good Shepherd? With baa or bah? How about you?


  1. I'm guessing the popular author is Karen Kingsbury. Am I right?

  2. I'll answer your question the next time I see you!