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Opinions of Saturday, 10 May 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Vocabulary and The Small Thinkers……

Want attention? Massage your arthritic ego with big words and big phrases.

“…. They remained sanguine,…a tapestry of various…, a smorgasbord of,…. the truncated version of….”


Very Impressive! Is that jibber-jabber stock of vocabulary really important to get the reader’s attention? Only when one is doing the Crossword Puzzle.

THESE DAYS reading articles on the net requires a good dictionary .And since I don’t have one I just go straight into the forum and read the comments posted by the readers. What happened to “communication”?

The last time I checked I was told the essence of communication is to hear and to be heard; anything more than that is advertising. So parading one’s vocabulary is not an academic virtue, but platitude or personal vanity.

Do we really need to use big words or phrase to say”I like you” or” I envy you”? In fact, we don’t even have to use any word at all because we can “speak” without making a sound. We think in pictures and images not in words and phrases.

“People who use difficult high-sounding words and phrases that most ordinary people (or readers) have to strain themselves to understand are inclined to be overbearing and small thinkers”

Now, you have it!

My English 101 teacher once said”, the important measure of one’s vocabulary is not the size or the number of words he/she uses. Rather the effect of his/her words and phrases have on his/her own and others’ thinking.” In other words, it’s the impact of the words on the listeners or readers that matters than the quantity and flavor of the words.

That explains why anything or ideas presented in some sort of picture or diagram form has many times more selling power than the ideas presented only on written or oral form.

On that front, what do you think of the following statement? “They had a wonderful day at the picnic”. Undoubtedly, this statement sends images and a mental picture of a good time they had—the great food, music, and drinks and perhaps nice weather and peaceful atmosphere were contributing factors...

Equally, when I say,”here is some good news to cheer you up”; your mind will start to sparkle, with positive and favorable expectations. A very bright picture is automatically stored on your mind when you heard that statement.

You want another try? What do you make out of this statement?” A peaceful Sunday morning became chaotic as the car jumped a curb” .I bet your mind is picturing injuries, possibly death and property damage .Such a mental picture gets readers’ attention faster than one displaying a Swiss bank account in public. .

It’s on that basis that articles with political bite and colorful phrases get more attention on the net and in print media—than the problem-solving ones which lack mental pictures...

We don’t think in big words and phrases. We think only in pictures and images. And, pictures can say a thousand words. Words are the raw materials of thought. Therefore when spoken or read, the mind automatically converts words and phrases into pictures and images. So each word, each phrase creates different mind picture of the listener or reader. That is why there is a need for every good writer to color his or her work with sincere feelings.

Believe it or not, every reader or person can read the writers’ or speakers’ minds. They know how they think and their attitudes show through in their works. They read the writers’ attitudes through expressions and inflections.

In essence, when we write we communicate with our feelings and attitudes. Apart from body movements, facial expressions and sounds, the only best way we communicate is with writing. When we write with good and right attitude our abilities reach a maximum level with effectiveness and good results inevitably follow.

When we write or speak we’re just projecting the “pictures” on the mind of a listener or reader. And, we don’t need big words or difficult phrases to send those pictures. Now, suppose you tell your colleague, you have a lousy marriage. What will that person see about your marriage? She/he will see quarrels over petty things, conflicts, lack of respect, and a home which lacks peace, poor communication, low- sex life and possibly infidelity. It’s all about creating pictures and images.

Interestingly, we tend to admire people who have truck-load of big words and phrases. We equate them with brain-power and ability to solve real- life problems. But, that is not true. Contrary to public opinion, big thinkers use easy words and phrases to create positive, forward-looking, optimistic pictures in their own minds and in the minds of others.

Big thinkers provide a vision of a future that doesn’t exist by using easy -to- understand words to create credibility, which also create trust and faith in others.

Small thinkers, on the other hand use big words and phrases and it becomes a blow to their pride if their big words and phrases are not recognized. The bitterness, resentment and sometimes, jealousy build up because they will begin to feel very inadequate. The result is that they will start to take other people’s work (articles) apart and blow massive holes in them; to look for grammatical mistakes, typos and minor errors---- with the goal to make the authors look very small and unworthy. Some people ---we all know a few on the net --- have made it a habit to attack any author they don’t agree with.

The fact is those who use big words and phrases, sometimes want to advertise themselves and camouflage their own shortcomings and cry for recognition.

On that note, what picture does this piece project on your mind?

Yes, I know the self-anointed, freelance proofreaders had wanted to read a perfect piece with a perfect syntax and, of course with no typographical error. But, I know my writings are not flawless. Perhaps I deliberately attract sane readers who over-look my mistakes, because I manage their expectations carefully in my writings and over –deliver beyond their imaginations; without pretending to be perfect. I do that because I owe my readers a sense of gratitude; for giving me the unparalleled room and opportunity to hone my writing skills—if any.

Undoubtedly, the Sympathetic readers can and will easily read between the lines and see the writer’s humility or lack of it .And, that will determine how they response to any piece---not the big words or phrases he/she uses.

You see, I hardly used big strenuous words and phrases. And, I hope I did accomplish my goal—all without any PhD behind my name. And, I’m not even Ahoofedua. Not a small accomplishment to write home about, huh?

My mom once said,” ahoofe ntua eka” (beauty doesn’t pay the rent).She was right. I wonder if big words and phrases build schools or roads. Neither do they supply computers for our students nor do they solve our water problem.

The power of effective communication is using simple positive, cheerful, bright and favorable words and phrases to describe events, people and visions. “The best place to use big words is in the Crossword puzzle”; not on the net. No bi so?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

* The author is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship, non-profit foundation to fulfill the promise to the citizens of Asuom.