"Mercy” is the one expletive my grandmother Norris allowed herself, the all-purpose exclamation for times when she was too awestruck, befuddled or exasperated to say anything else. People do have a need for expletives—it may be as deep as our need for language itself—and during the 1960s, when my Bennington classmates swore like sailors, I joined in to fit in. In those days I considered my grandmother’s “Mercy” to be amusing, and even charming, but also embarrassingly anachronistic. Now that I am older, more care-free and far less sophisticated, “Mercy” seems a fine word for those moments when other words fail. As a Christian, I can always claim that mercy is what it’s all about.