Cliche of the Week

The Winnipeg Free Press

It is what it is

Book connects common catchphrases with relevant Scripture passages

By: Sharon Chisvin

Glenn Morison.jpg

As an ordained minister, a former prison chaplain and a member of the Winnipeg Quakers, Glenn Morison has devoted his life and his career to helping the most marginalized people in society. More recently, he has devoted much of his leisure time to the unusual hobby of collecting, categorizing and researching slogans and catchphrases and relating them to biblical verse.

Morison has now self-published a collection of these slogans in a compact book appropriately entitled The Things We Say. He is donating all profits from the sale of the book to the Religious Society of Friends in Canada, also known as the Quakers, for the purchase of a share, and a home, in the Old Grace Housing Co-operative for a low-income person.

Morison’s interest in slogans took root when he was a graduate student in religious education in the mid-1980s and writing a term paper on the implicit theology of pop psychology and self-help books.

In the course of his essay research, he realized that almost every self-help book could be summed up by a single slogan or catchphrase.

Several years later, Morison began noticing that slogans, increasingly, were popping up on church marquees as a means of promoting faith and attracting congregants. Then, while employed at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, and later with a local program that partners volunteers with isolated inmates, he observed that many of those he worked with used slogans to describe, defend and dismiss their life decisions, circumstances and sense of despair.

"These three experiences from different eras of my life made me realize just how important slogans are in the lives of so many people," Morison says.

"As I paid more attention in my work in corrections, I could see times when these slogans really helped people focus on their priorities and keep things together," he says. "But I also noted times where slogans seemed to be empty of any real conviction and recited with the hope of, but no experience of, value."

As he began approaching retirement, Morison started making a list of slogans and researching their origins, attribution and common usage. As a final step, he put his graduate degrees and many years of experience preaching and teaching to the task of identifying a relevant Scripture reference for each one.

When he had compiled a spreadsheet with more than 600 slogans, Morison decided it was time to turn his research into a book. He had previously published a novel and ghostwritten local political activist Nick Ternette’s autobiography.

In The Things We Say, Morison classifies 187 slogans into 22 one-word-titled chapters that explore concepts such as gratitude, judgment, providence and forgiveness. He scrutinizes each slogan’s meaning and source, juxtaposes each one with a relatable Bible verse, and expounds on the relevance of each one in the context of traditional Quaker values.

Those values — integrity, simplicity, equality, community, peace and stewardship of the Earth — are, unsurprisingly, the same values that guide Morison’s faith, writing and work.