Word Wonders: Univocal vs. Equivocal

My niece Laura took this pic

I may have been the only person in the RevGalBlogPals “Friday Five” game this week who chose “univocal” instead of “equivocal” given that choice.  I’ve had some fun thinking about my process in making what was, for me, a very surprising choice.  The way it went:

  1. The underdog:  I immediately suspected that “univocal” wouldn’t get many votes in a group of remarkably multi-dimensional women.  I gravitate to the underdog, no doubt about that.  The “underdog factor” kept me from making a quick choice for “equivocal” and I took a step across the aisle to stand with the (I imagined) unpopular choice for a moment.
  2. Pick the one that is not immediately appealing to me:  In this choice, I saw “single voice” (one dimensional?) vs. “Equal voices” (multi-dimensional?) and knew that I would usually be attracted to “equivocal” as the choice that represented more strands bringing diversity and rich depth.  These are things I wrap myself in regularly.  But then I tried to imagine the appeal of “univocal.”  And I surprised myself by imagining times when the single voice, standing out above all other less-focused voices, is very appealing.  Example:  Jesus
  3. Help from dictionary.com:  Univocal has a single meaning; unambiguous.  Equivocal has three definitions (1) allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous. (2) of doubtful nature or character; questionable; dubious; suspicious (3) of uncertain significance; not determined.  Though not always “with intent to deceive or misguide,” equivocal began to look to me like a word that encompasses “lazy compromises” as well as, perhaps, more intentional “arms wide open” choices.
  4. My context:  As many of the RevGals pointed out, life itself is made up of ambiguity, is multi-dimensional, and not always easy to put in a box.  Ministry life is all of that, as is church life.  I accept life on those terms; I even treasure that, most of the time.  I just happen to be in a phase of life (ministry, church, personal) where the unambiguous voice is much appreciated and, truthfully, much needed. 
  5. About Jesus … Jesus certainly shows up as equivocal and ambiguous.   He spoke in parables, after all!  But I also see how his life (self-understanding, mission) might very well be called univocal
It started out as a bit of a rebellious choice.  I figured I would bring the unfamiliar voice to that question (hmmm …).  And, along the way, I realized that my own life — at this time — longs for more univocal and less equivocal, so that’s why I chose it this time.  This Jesus saying is very attractive and also challenging:  “Let your ‘yes’ be your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be your ‘no’.”  It’s not where I usually live.

One thought on “Word Wonders: Univocal vs. Equivocal

  1. I enjoyed this. Thanks for taking the other path and following your thought process with it. When I read the dictionary meaning for equivocal, I was disappointed. I kind of ignored the darker aspects of it and picked it anyway as a way to say what I think about Scripture itself. The longer it's been, the less I like the implications. I was thinking equi-vocal rather than equivocal as in equivocation which always makes me think of Macbeth. Yikes!

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