A homely word for a less homely style of discourse. Indeed, the homilist in his homiletics may hit some home truths, but likely not in a homy manner or context. It is, after all, a speaking to an assembled throng: Greek homilos means “crowd.” Specifically, it’s speaking to them for their spiritual edification. And why do I say “his homiletics”? Not because of the misleading hom at the beginning – it is not a word by nature reserved exclusively for hombres – but because this word is particularly preferred in Catholic circles, and Catholic priests cannot but be male. It is, however, also used by Anglicans and a few other denominations; the rest of the Christian churches tend to prefer sermon. But certainly there is a difference in taste between homily and sermon! The calming hum of hom (almost ho-hum), the overtones of humility, perhaps the corn and grit of hominy, even that little echo of the land where Puff the Magic Dragon frolicked, all give a smoothness to the piety; the ascenders and dot lend a visual variety. Level-topped sermon, on the other hand, echoes stiff sir and medicinal serum, and its cultural overtones and various uses can give it a real flavour of stern, finger-pointing, didactic moralizing. The blended notes of salmon and vermin may not make the tongue tingle too happily either. Beyond this, homily also comes more calmly in part because it is much less used than sermon – in the realm of 1/6 to 1/12 as often, depending on where you count. I will offer the additional personal impression (very unscientific) that homilies tend to be shorter than sermons, too.
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