The Language of Hens

Bible Reading: Proverbs 15:1–15

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“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)

Hens cluck, cackle, and squawk. Their clucking in particular can be quite expressive. Clucking is a murmuring, low-intensity language. By changing the tone of the clucking, hens can send communications that range from comforting, soothing messages to stern, rebuking disapproval. 

Clucking changes to cackling when a situation like the laying of an egg calls for a more emotional response. Cackling in turn changes to squawking when the hen feels that events are spiraling out of her control. Hens’ final communications are often done in the language of squawking.

People do not speak the language of hens—or maybe they do. God has created us, like clucking hens, with the flexibility to express great variations of meaning at low intensity, simply by changing the tone of our utterances. For example, consider the question, “Why are you crying?” We could ask this sympathetically, scornfully, rebukingly, teasingly, wearily, or disbelievingly by changing the tone of our voice.

In everyday language, some of the same words used for chicken communication are also applied to humans. The dictionary says clucking expresses interest or concern. Cackling is often expressed as sharp, harsh laughter. Laughter can be as gentle as the tinkle of chimes in a soft breeze or as bitterly sharp as a Montana blizzard.

Like hens, people often resort to squawking as events spiral out of control. It may be a mother’s exasperated screaming at her uncontrollable child or a man’s vigorous protest when his pride has been injured.

We should aspire to speak more of the language of gentle clucking. We have no need for the language of squawking, because when events spiral out of our control, our sovereign God still holds them firmly in His hand.

It’s not just the words but the tone that we use
That may stir up a fight or the tension defuse.

From Paws on My Porch, by Gary Miller
© 2015 TGS International, PO Box 355, Berlin, Ohio 44610
Used by permission.


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