Elmhirst, Sophie, New Statesman (1996)
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." As a literal opening to this column, that line has never made more sense. This week, the word is "God". The big one. I thought it was time.
However, I am neither equipped nor inclined to offer a sophisticated analysis of deism. I know that's what you were hoping for, but hell (whoops), it's not going to happen. This is about the word. Not the word when it was being God: I never understood how the word did that. Also couldn't John just have written, "In the beginning was God, and God was with God, and God was God"? Too repetitive?
Anyway, the word is Germanic, from guthan, linked to the Proto-Indo-European ghutom, from the rootghew, meaning "to call or invoke". I like the way it unravels not to a tangible being, but to something summoned or imagined. It makes sense of our frequent declamations - "for God's sake", "in the name of God", "God, Boris Johnson is a plonker". God the word is invoked for emphasis, to make a point.
It helps that it is concise. If we'd stuck with Yahweh, I'm not sure the idea would have caught on. …