Words – Lesson 101

Words – Lesson 101

Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men – Confucius.

Words are one of the most beautiful things ever created. Words written, spoken, or sung. Words in any form. Powerful expressions. We are told the world was created with words. Nations go to war over words. Words bring lovers together. Words cause friends to go apart. Words are potent. They make. They mar. They create. They ruin.

Those who rule the world are those who have been able to understand and master the power and potency of words. They are able to articulate and manipulate words; to present words, to combine words in a form that appeals to the mind, to the psyche, to the emotions. Have you come across someone who is able to compel you to do things that you would otherwise not do, not only because they tell you to do it, but because of how they say it? If you have met me, you probably have :).

One of my favorite authors, James Hadley Chase, wrote books that described locales he had never visited. With words, he was able create vivid pictures of these places as if he had been there (good words are worth a thousand pictures). Mohammed Ali used words to weather down his opponents before knocking them out in the ring. The Man of God uses words to make you commit and subscribe to a purpose higher than yourself. A beautiful well crafted love letter can move her from who is this guy to this is the man for me, within a matter of minutes (depending on how long your love letter is, or perhaps how deep your love is).

Words are weapons. They should always be used ‘consciously’. You should always know the meaning of any word you use so you don’t confuse others. Words should be used with purpose. They are very powerful, and misusing them creates commotion, confusion and chaos.

Your choice of words will always depend on your vocabulary. A great part of life’s outcome is dependent on what you say; the words you use; your vocabulary. Holy books tell you to speak to your destiny. You can only ‘speak’ what you know.  Remember that those who rule the world are those who are able to speak with influence. It therefore follows that the better you are able to speak, the more you’d be able to influence others. Quite a lot of people have vocabularies that didn’t evolve after high school. Sometimes, speaking with them makes you cower out of surprise and self defense. To me, any ‘modern man’ who expresses himself in a rustic manner is someone to be feared; that they have chosen not to improve a tool so commonly used by them (language) would also make you wonder about their mindset, whether they are progressive or retrogressive. I’m not saying you should always express yourself in bourgeois fashion, but you certainly shouldn’t speak like you were part of the proletariat if you aren’t.

Tewe definitionA life changing moment for me was when I came across the dictionary. I was 8 years young, thereabout. We had this big Webster 20th Century dictionary in the house. I’d read it; yes, I actually used to read the dictionary. I’d look for my name in it; look for my siblings names in it.

Never did find them of course, but I discovered something interesting, It was an epiphany. I discovered the meaning of words, rather I discovered that all words have a meaning. I discovered how important it is to know the meaning of words. I discovered that it is important to know the meaning of many words, and that the goal should be to know the meaning of all words. Sounds silly, but silly things sometimes change people. I discovered that you can use one word to express a thought that may have required two different words, and thus express yourself in a more interesting way. That discovery changed many things for me.

It is not enough to just know words. Enunciation is very important too. Speak lucidly. Make sure whoever it is you are speaking to can understand what you are saying. It’s not in all cases that people understand you immediately, probably because of your choice of words, but that shouldn’t be your headache. They should take the time to understand, if they really want to. Besides, anyone can and everyone should have easy access to a dictionary. Everyone should have a dictionary close by (especially on your mobile). Words are important tools we use for everyday living. You should keep your tools sharp. No one needs to tell you that.

I’ll say this again, those who rule the world are those who have been able to understand the importance and potency of words. Music greats are able to elicit emotion through musical expression using words. Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, gospel greats. Political figures have the gift of oration. Think about it, what makes you decide on who you choose to vote for? It’s what the person says. Not necessarily because of what you know that he will do, because you really don’t and can’t know what he will do, but because of what he says he will do, and most especially how he says it.

Stealing is not Corruption. Literally, it isn’t, but if that statement was articulated in a different manner, it wouldn’t be used in derision as it is today.

Now, there are some things that upset me. I’m very particular about lexis and structure; about grammar. You need to stop typing ‘am going home’. The right thing to type is ‘I am going home’ or ‘I’m going home’. It’s not ‘common’, when you are trying to chastise a friend or you want someone to get going on something, it’s ‘come on’. It’s not ‘of cause’ when you are trying to confirm, verify, or corroborate something; it’s ‘of course’. And yes, Google should be your friend, not necessarily your best friend. If I like you, I’ll be certain to correct you when you make errors. And I appreciate correction too, especially when it comes to pronunciation. I didn’t know that breakfast was pronounced ‘brekfast’ until a few years ago!

Patois is good, but don’t let it replace the requirement for organized language.

Little story. I was in primary 3. One of our exams required us to write the spelling of words called out by the teacher. One of the words, out of 25, which she called, was ‘pronunciation’. It was probably my first time ever hearing the word, so I tried to apply common sense to spell it (sounds like it originates from pronoun right?). I scored 24/25 in that exam.  I spelt it ‘pronounciation’ (thinking back now, it was probably her enunciation!). I was told someone else got full marks. I had to find out who the person was. I did find out and I learnt how to spell the word correctly. Won’t ever forget that event. Grammatical errors are like a stained shirt; stains hurt the eyes. I won’t be able to appreciate the shirt (what you are saying); the stain would be distracting.

The knowledge of words gives you power. Think of it as a tool, or maybe even a weapon. Use it as you would a tool or weapon. Master it. Recognize the importance it plays in self expression, in ‘creating’ your future. Your words are a representation of you.

A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words… the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt – Mark Twain.



  1. You are hitting the right note kay and it goes without saying that every reader on your blog has two thoughts infered from the article – Reflection and Improvement!

    1. Yes sir! Reflection and improvement – both should be done daily. It’s important that we reflect daily on our journey so far and on where we currently are on that journey. Then we should make plans, and implement these plans. No day should be spent without taking one step towards our goals.

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