By Alex Florez
In high school, a word I found in Shakespeare caught my eye. I’ve never used it in a sentence publicly—because no one wants to hang out with a guy who peppers conversations with unsolicited Shakespearean English—but this word has popped into my mind countless times since the late 90s.
The word is zounds, which you can pronounce to rhyme with either “hounds” or “wounds.” The word was used as a “mild oath,” which is to say, a not-so-bad cuss word. At the time, it was pretty cool that Shakespeare used bad words in his plays, even if only mild ones.
This monosyllabic archaism was an abbreviation of the words “God’s wounds,” as in “the wounds inflicted upon Jesus when He was crucified.” When I was a teenager—when the death of Jesus was nothing more than impersonal, quasi-historical marginalia—I had zero emotional response to this flippant reference to the torture and execution of Jesus. The death of the Son of God was inconsequential to me at the time. The man, and certainly His name, meant nothing.
I recently did a cursory review of Romeo and Juliet because my daughter had to read it for her 7th grade literature class, and I came across zounds for the first time in a while. This time, it didn’t feel like nothing. I don’t think it’s because I’m some sort of priggish person.
Jesus is the one who has rendered me “alive to God” (Romans 6:11).
Things I didn’t use to notice now catch my eyes like glaring neon signs and strike my ears like piercing clarion calls. I suppose it’s not fun, per se, to have a heightened awareness of the carelessness and brokenness of the world around me. Nonetheless, I consider it a gift because the more attuned I am to the universal pandemic of sin, the more aware I am of our desperate need for God’s grace. I recognize that “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life” (v.4).
“What’s in a name?” asks Juliet Capulet. Our Savior, by any other name, would still be the Savior, I suppose. But it wasn’t just any other name: it was Jesus and only Jesus. In this case, the name matters.
And, Mr. Shakespeare, I’m not mad at you for exposing me to this word that has become obsolete apart from your plays. If anything, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of Christ’s wounds. Even if you didn’t intend for me to, I consider the pierced wrists of my Savior, and it reminds me of the incalculable price tendered for my freedom. In fact, I am reminded that I share those wounds, in a sense, because I have been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).