you say ‘tomato’ I say ‘tomato’

A number of years ago I was in America as part of a committee that was planning a Baptist World Youth Conference. Our host kindly took a group of us out for brunch after church on the Sunday (how civilised!) and I was amazed at what was on offer at the buffets (hot, cold, cereal), on special order and at a counter where they made omelettes to order. I decided I wanted an omelette so strolled up and joined the queue. I watched how everyone else did it and then when it was my turn pointed out the items I would like in my omelette:

“Bacon… sausage… mushroom… and tomato, please,” I said innocently.Tomato

The girl had been placing some of each item into the mixing bowl, but when it got to tomato she stopped and looked quizzically at me.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”


[thinks] “Oh, you mean tomato,” she said.

Now at this point, in written text, that does not make sense so I ought to point out that I pronounced it “tom ar to” (ar as in car) and she said “tom ay to” (ay as in hay).

The young lady was so excited that she asked me to say it again. And then she called her colleagues over and got me to say “tomarto” again. By the time I had finished I was blushing as red as a tomayto.

I didn’t think I had a strong accent. I didn’t think I was very ‘British’. But she did.

I’m not sure why that episode came to mind this morning, but it made me wonder whether I write with a British accent too. I know I spell words differently to my friends in America, and indeed use different words for the same things. But does that show? Do you notice?

The stats I can look at about the blog tell me the country you bloggites are in when you read this. Most are from UK, then USA, then Canada, India, Australia and Germany. (I hope that when I mentioned those countries if you are from there you gave a little whoop.) For some of you there will be obvious things I write that tell you I am British. For others you will be used to it and it won’t be obvious.

I could launch into a Tower of Babel analogy here, where language became a barrier. But instead I want to go to the other end of the Bible where we have an image of people gathered to worship God from all countries and languages. We have a taste of that in our church where we have people who have joined us from many countries from across the globe (and they seem to cope with our British English). For me, one of the greatest blessings has been getting to know followers of Jesus from across the world. We may struggle to understand each other, perhaps even needing an interpreter, but what unites us is stronger. I have sat in worship services where I have not understood a word (except the mentions of Jesus) but have left blessed because I have been with fellow believers. What unites us is far more than what is different about us. That is a desire to follow Jesus and make him known. It is a sharing of the same Spirit of God within us.

I have found the same is true of believers from other Christian traditions. I used to be a bit of a Baptist bigot (as a teenager) – believing that we had all the answers and worshipped God properly. Now I realise that we worship according to our convictions, but others worship according to equally strongly held convictions and while we may disagree about them, we are united by a desire to follow Jesus and make him known. And what unites us is stronger than our differences.

So, let us look for what we have in common with others rather than what divides us.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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