I’m old enough to remember when we used hymn-books in church. Most were in their umpteenth printing, and any typos that had crept into the first edition had long since been corrected. The spelling and punctuation were immaculate. Being a nit-picker by nature, I liked that.

Then churches began using overhead projectors for the words. The transparencies, written by any Tom, Dick or Harry who owned a coloured marker, displayed a horrific variety of errors. Things didn’t improve when, later on, churches moved on to data projectors. These days, I wince weekly at the glaring errors of spelling and punctuation up there on the big screen and try to tell myself it doesn’t matter. I should be focusing on the meaning of what I’m singing. But it’s hard work, like somebody telling me, ‘Never mind the crocodile in the lake; just enjoy the swim.’

One particular error annoys me: the mix-up of two words that both occur regularly in Christian songs. One is ‘Oh’, and the other is ‘O’. These are two quite different words, with different meanings and usage, but since whoever types the songs into the system rarely seems to know that, they are frequently wrong. For years, I didn’t know the difference myself, so I can’t blame you if you don’t, either. But as I’m enlightened now, I’ll share the light with you.

Let’s start with the word ‘O’. This always goes before someone’s name or a title—and nowhere else. It’s a formal style of addressing someone, usually someone of superior rank to yourself, as in the hymn, ‘O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end…’ or the song, ‘O Lord, you’ve done great things…’

The other word is ‘Oh’. This is an interjection, a word that conveys strength of feeling. It usually begins a statment of deeply-felt longing or strong passion, one where an exclamation mark at the end is appropriate. So we have the hymn, ‘Oh, how I love Jesus…!’ and ‘Oh, make me understand it, help me to take it in…!’ Or, ‘Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s worth!’

So there you have it. Oh, what a marvellous thing education is!

5 Responses to Oh!

  1. general@studio1productions.co.uk says:

    Hi David,

    Trust all is going well for you. I enjoy seeing some really good photos you take on put on Facebook.

    Irene has been down at her sisters in Redruth three weeks ago, and my daughter is travelling back now with her family after a week’s holiday in Perranporth.

    Your post reminded me when we lived in Wigan and I would be around six years old. I was taken to the doctors and an elderly man came into the surgery and as he was in the process of sitting down, he voiced “Oh! 0h! Oh! Oh!”. I turned to my mother and said I thought he was going to sing the song “Oh! 0h! Oh! Oh! He’s done so much for me” but he stopped.

    Have a great weekend


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  2. Jean Davison says:

    Hello, my name is Jean Davison. I’ve just been reading the PDF of your memoirs and find you are the Mr Matthew I remember from when I was a 12-year-old pupil at Woodroyd Secondary School in Bradford in 1962 and you were teaching scripture (and other things!). I remember you very well. (In fact, you get a mention in my memoir ‘The Dark Threads’).
    I’ve tried to email you to say more but when I click on the ’email here’ link on your website I can get no further. Maybe your email is out of date, as is mine on my blog. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m not very computer savvy and maybe I’ll be able to figure it out some time.
    Meanwhile, just want to say you were a good example of sincerity to the 12-year-old me and my friends (see, we DID listen). You spoke (bravely, I thought) to us scruffy ‘disengaged’ kids about your Christian faith, and I remember you singing a gospel song to us while playing a guitar (please don’t tell me the guitar is imagined. It seems so strong a memory in my mind).
    Warmest wishes,


    • What a delight to hear from you, Jean! I don’t get many contacts from the Woodroyd days, so it was particularly nice to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words. It was certainly a challenging year for me at Woodroyd, dropped right into an environment where, unlike what I’d been used to, many of the youngsters hadn’t any real interest in furthering their education. I’m delighted that you clearly bucked that trend and have gone on to become a competent writer. And yes, the guitar was real! Sorry about the email link. It does work, as I get regular emails from it, so maybe it’s something local on your machine. For the record, I’m dm@davidmatthew.org.uk, and I’m also on Facebook. Should you ever find yourself in West Cornwall on holiday, Jean, do get in touch; it would be lovely to meet up for a coffee and a spot of reminiscing. Blessings to you! David


      • Jean Davison says:

        Thank you for your reply. It’s true that many of us at Woodroyd had no interest in furthering our education, coming from families/environment where this wasn’t encouraged and for some actively discouraged. I left Woodroyd at 13 to go to a comprehensive school where I did at least have the opportunity of staying on to take GCE’s (unlike at Woodroyd), but I didn’t. I was painfully shy, bullied, and left school at 15 to work on a factory assembly line. It wasn’t until many years later I returned to study and have been trying ever since to make up for lost time.
        I went to an evangelical Pentecostal church in Bradford in my teens (Apostolic, on Gt Horton Road), but I lost my faith (and had great difficulty coming to terms with that loss). I’m still interested in Christianity, hence enjoy reading your posts, but I did not (cannot) regain my faith.
        Lovely to have been reminded of a time of innocence (it was the lull before the storm for me) after all these years.


  3. Richard Robinson says:

    Amazing to read Jean’s story. Encouraging for me as a teacher (since 1991) to hear of the way in which a teacher can impact the lives of others, either in just one moment or over a period of time.Really hopeful that Jean will experience God’s love for her in a powerful way.
    Now then, back to those spellings… is it “focusing” or focussing”? My computer has just underlined the double-s version, but I would protest.


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