Tongue twister

Anne Marie Conte: What is the implication of the expression "Speaking in Tongues"? Does it refer to any experience where a person speaks in languages unknown to them, or is it specifically related to posession by the Devil?

Terry O'Connor: Here goes with a hasty reply: Speaking in tongues, as I understand it, referred to the sort of religious possession that is sometimes these days referred to as "charismatic". A person thus possessed (in the favourable sense of the word) could address a multitude of people from different countries and they would all understand him (or, probably very rarely, her). I don't believe it had anything to do with the Devil. The phrase has the opposite, ironic, meaning these days, in that it is used to refer to people who are talking gibberish -- such as bureaucrats.


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