At a crucial moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen drafted President Kennedy’s address to the nation. He tried to draft a particular paragraph that would have publicly offered a trade deal to the USSR. But he wound up scrapping the paragraph, and thus the idea. Why? “It just wouldn’t write,” Sorensen said.
I thought of that quote the other day when I sent my minister pal Suzanne Ecklund (seen here) a cool message I received from an important writer, about the new Vital Speeches venture, Vital Sermons (more on that to come).
"That'll preach (as we say in the biz)," Suzanne replied.
I knew instantly what she meant, but I asked anyway. She also knew what she meant, but she went on Facebook and asked her "seminarian, preacher, clergy and church-whatevs" friends to find some examples of how it might be used, in seriousness or in jest. I didn't get their permission to quote them, so I'm going to quote them anonymously.
"That'll preach," they said, is a regional thing. "I grew up in evangelical churches in the Northeast and never heard it until I moved to Atlanta and now I hear it ALL THE TIME," one of Suzanne's friends said; another said he'd heard it on on the west coast too.
"That'll preach" can be used seriously or jokingly.
"Preachers have a special sensitivity to messages that are ripe for public exposition," yet another said. "So 'that’ll preach' can be a serious statement like 'amen' (the preacher finds harmony between the given concept and the role of the pulpit), or humorously as the preacher is always scrounging for ideas for Sunday (especially by Saturday evening)."
Another friend offered an example of a Facebook post to which someone responded, "That'll preach."
So last night we found a lot of ants above our front door. Nate sprayed them and there were unintended consequences; all of the bugs that came to our front porch over night died. We discovered the remains this morning. When I got home this afternoon I saw birds eating this apparently easy meal. I’m concerned about the birds. I regret we didn’t think about the other bugs. That said, I warn us of what seems like an easy meal. Easy is rarely healthy in food or in life. That easy “meal” may be poison.
"That'll preach" can also be used, said another, more secularly, as a synonym for "right on": “say that again,” “two snaps up,” “word,” “oh, yes, I agree,” “that’s profound,” “you hit the nail on the head,” “precisely,” “what she said,” “ditto,” “oh, heck yeah…that makes perfect sense!”
(And that's how I plan to use it to from now on, to the point of obnoxiousness.)
Suzanne tells me she's never heard anyone say, "That won't preach."
I'm going to start saying that a lot, too, to see if I can get it to catch on.
I mean, to see if that'll preach.