It’s either a clever turn if a phrase, or not. “I grew up in the Bible Belt…” the anonymous contribution to The Sun’s Readers Write section begins and concludes that “…it was better to be an honest sinner than a dishonest churchgoer.”
The phrase that arrested my attention is “honest sinner.” Juxtaposing words in that fashion are delicious.
So, I looked up the etymology of the words to see if the anonymous author is clever or something else.
“Honest” comes from the Latin meaning “honorable.”
“Sinner,” or its root word “sin,” as far as I can find comes from the Latin meaning “guilty,” thus sinner means “guilty one.” Further, “sin” means to “miss the mark,” specifically, “to miss the mark of righteousness.”
So the anonymous author constructs a phrase meaning “honorably guilty” or “honorably missing the mark.” Either conclusion (“honorably guilty” or “dishonorably attending church”) seems disappointing. To open up the phrase a bit more — the author proposes that it is better to honorably miss the mark than to charade dishonorably in church. At this point I realize that the anonymous author reveals a logic similar to that of wet noodles. I’m too disappointed to continue to write about the author’s logical fallacies and philosophical short cuts.