Like so many expressions in our common manner of speaking, we believe that we know the meaning of a word or phrase because of its customary usage. But regional or community differences can bring great distinction between what we think that we are saying and what our listener is hearing. Sometimes, our very pronunciation leads to misunderstanding. Many of our fellow good-intentioned Hoosiers hold that one “warshes” a frying pan rather than they might wash it. Perhaps the “r” came out with the grime.
To many of us, “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is code for a profane tirade. We are cursing at those to whom we direct the epithet or the very deity that we believed caused our supposed misfortune. More accurately, we are wrongly or wickedly claiming the authority of the divinity to our own purposes. It is as if we are saying that we lack the power to extract justice, but our big brother will do so – hoping to frighten our nemesis with our powerful friends. Alas, we all are inclined to do it. We invoke the name of our boss, a powerful political leader, or even our fellow parent to cajole someone into adhering to our will. “I don’t really care if you stay out late, Junior, but your mother wouldn’t like it.” Well, if mom’s unhappy, she can probably speak for herself, and if Dad doesn’t think the youngster should stay out late, he ought to tell them himself and not blame his opposite parent.
It is hard to be entirely responsible, all by our big-kid selves, for our choices and desires. We routinely wrap them in the authority of another without their specific permission. As such, we impugn the claim’s object with our own insecurities and lead others to assume a false narrative about them.