I'm going to demonstrate the importance of prepositions using religion. Yes, some of us hold equally strong convictions regarding both.
Let us consider the title of a denomination in Ireland: The Presbyterian Church in Ireland. This Church is not of, no it is in Ireland. This simple preposition tells much. It lets us know that this particular Church happens to be in Ireland, moreover it is not the property of the country or even the people, no, this two-letter preposition in tells us the Church doesn't belong to anyone except the authority in heaven. This Church happens to be spending its time here ministering in Ireland, awaiting what they hope is passage to higher pastures.
Say we changed the preposition, we would notice the following changes in the relationship of the nouns "Presbyterian Church" and "Ireland":
- When it takes a very long Sunday School Excursion to another country it is the Presbyterian Church from Ireland.
- We'd like to think it is also the Presbyterian Church for Ireland.
- In the early days it was the Presbyterian Church to Ireland.
- If Theonomy was established it would be the Presbyterian Church over Ireland.
- If persecution returns it might become the Presbyterian Church under Ireland.
- Were her congregations concentrated at the coasts, she would become the Presbyterian Church about Ireland.
The inanity is in a spread
As contrast, we can examine the names of similar organisations:
- The Church of England
This suggests the church belongs to England, which happens to be exactly Henry VIII's design.
- Presbyterian Church USA
This is simply a few words sloshed together; the relationships of the polity, organisation and nation not being very clear. Some would call that a metaphor for that particular denomination.
And a few other government and industry bodies:
- Public Health England
What exactly is being described or requested here? Does this body request the public sing a health to England each year? Does it run the health service, or monitor health, or do both?
- National Museums Northern Ireland
Are we so desperate to save ink that someone pressed to omit a clarifying, decorative, official-sounding in from amid 'Museums' and 'Northern'? Is this desperate ploy to placate a trend really going to bring the youngsters crawling into museums? 'National Museums in Northern Ireland', or 'of Northern Ireland' if you prefer. Either rings better and sounds suitably more serious, which is what the museum-going demographic have come to expect.
- Manufacturing NI
Supposedly this refers to an association for manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland. When I read it, I think of someone literally manufacturing the country of Northern Ireland. I suppose we could place the new one somewhere in the ocean and let each community live in its own
- Police Scotland
This one simply sounds like an instruction, not a name for a respectable arm of the law. 'Go forth and police Scotland!'. I'd actually find it funny if they didn't have the power to arrest me for writing naughty things on the Internet.
Again, in each case a confusing mess where nothing has any relationship to anything else. Again, a perfect metaphor for their namesake; in these cases it's the government.
Thoughts in closing
I'm wondering when this slaughter of our helpful friends began. Random glances at Wikipedia put the date of many of these atrocities at the turn of the millennium. Supposedly the exact position of the earth relative to the planets that year triggered a great linguistic impulse, and we rose up to blaspheme the Gods of Grammar.
And what a lost people we are without our former faith. The humble preposition makes the relationship of words clear, a job of no small necessity. Without prepositions we don't know where we are, we are truly lost in a sea of utterances. We are far from reason, we are deep in peril, we inhabit the land of confusion, we are about to become undone. We wouldn't have the great song by The Yardbirds, Over Under Sideways Down. And I leave the final searching question from that song here, when will it end?