My Time is Your Time

Candice M. Coleman, Ph.D.


We’ve probably all heard the saying above. For our purposes, please say it out loud. What ideas did you stress? Probably “my” and “your,” right?

My time is your time.

Why didn’t you stress the word “time”? It looks like a new idea the first time you see it and we learned in the article Pardon My Asking … What’s New? that in conversation we generally stress new ideas. But, it just doesn’t “feel” right, does it?

Here’s something else to say out loud – “2/9.” You said “two-ninths,” didn’t you? Now, read this equation, “2/9+3/9=5/9.” The chances are very good you read, “two-ninths + three-ninths = five-ninths.” The ”ninths” are the common denominator of the equation and we tend to subdue them and stress the numerators when we speak. The same is true with words and phrases.

Here’s another well-known phrase.

No news is good news.

Just as in the previous cliche, it sounds “right” to stress “no” and “good” and subdue “news.”

No news is good news.

The ideas of “time,” “ninths” and “news” are old in the thought of the speaker or writer from the outset. The contrasts are about that old idea. We use this conversational pattern frequently without even thinking about it.

Lamar calls this Analytical Reading pattern Common Denominator (CD) and it consists of at least four parts either stated or implied. Two ideas in common (“time,” “ninths,” “news”) and two ideas in contrast or distinct from one another (“my”/”your,” “two”/”three”/”five,” and “no”/”good”). We subdue what’s common and stress the contrasts/distinctions.

Let’s apply this to a passage from the Bible. In Matthew 26:52 all (to:), we read:

... all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword:

Is the second “sword” it new or old? Obviously, because it is the second “sword,” it’s old.

However, just because we have an idea stated more than once, doesn’t necessarily mean we have a CD. There must also be a contrast/distinction. What is “take” distinct from? Could it be “perish”? If so (because in conversation we stress contrasts/distinctions) wouldn’t we stress “take” and “perish” and subdue the two “swords”? Don’t the “swords” fulfill the same function as the “ninths” and “take” and “perish” the “two,” ”three” and “five”?

... all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword:

Make sense? If not, email me.

In the definition above, I said that there are at least four parts to a Common Denominator, either stated or implied. In this verse the four parts are stated, but even if one is missing, the same guidelines apply.

In Luke 22:42, we get the well-loved phrase,

... nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

Isn’t this structured as a CD with one part missing? First, what are the contrasts? “My” and “thine,” right? So, what’s the CD statement or the idea that is repeated? Actually there are two. Isn’t “will” implied after “thine”? In addition, isn’t “be done” implied after “will”?

...not my will [be done], but thine [will] be done.

Would it sound logical to stress any ideas other than “my” and “thine”? This pattern is called a Three-Quarters Common Denominator because one part is implied. In fact, it’s so obvious in thought, it’s simply left out.

Fairly easy so far. But what do we do with this verse?

For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. (Isa. 52:3)

I’ve often heard it read,

Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

Looking at it in terms of a CD, could “nought” and “without money” be similar ideas? If so, what would be the contrast? Isn’t the meaning clearer if you stress “sold” and “redeemed”? Aren’t “yourselves” and “you” also CD statements? To paraphrase,

You’ve sold yourselves for nothing and you’ll be redeemed for nothing.

(Quick Tip —If you’re marking the books or copy you read from, you’ll want to underline the contrast (as you see above) and put a light “squiggle,” or strike through, through the common elements. That way your eyes see what you want your voice to do.)

When used appropriately, Common Denominator is so unobtrusive and conversational that your listeners accept it naturally. It can also cast new light on an old passage. It’s that new light which brings inspiration and healing.

For more information on voice and speech, you might want to download The Expressive Voice Audio Coach and other learning resources.

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©2019, Say It Well! Permission is given to reprint this article if the following is included: Reprinted by permission of Dr. Candice M. Coleman. She can be reached at 386-402-7047.