Spoken Words

By Josephine Otuagomah. Josephine is a 20 year old student from Delta Nigeria. Currently studying at the University of Benin she is an aspiring poet and writer.

Man naturally was born with the inherent ability to commune; transfer information and share ideas with his fellow man through the employment of speech as propagation medium right from primeval times. In the complexity of his evolutionary chemistry, the arch necessity of conversing with species of his like was of utmost importance even in the light of natural selection- that unintelligent intelligent man; that grand curator some persons chose to call God. Unlike this bewildering architectural master piece however, speech which through careful articulation of seasoned artistry beyond mere thoughts evolved, writing as a form of communication, dealing and transfer of information is but a design of designs- a careful evolutionary derivatives of spoken words. We may rightly say then, that through speech, pristine men had discussed the paradigm, principles and palatals on which written words are to be invented. It is true then that unto the giant mighty tongue through which thoughts are conveyed as speech; a barrel of ink is all but a mere maid of conveyance.

To comprehend the superiority of spoken word over the one on papyrus as in the quote of the great poet, singer and prolific writer – Maya Angelou; it is quite expedient that we look into the historical precedence of writing as a form of communication. Writing itself originated some 3100BC as a cuneiform script from Sumer (an ancient civilization of Mesopotamia) engraved on clay tablets followed then by the Egyptian hieroglyphs and papyrus; a century or so later. This archaeological documentation thereby implied that writing was more of acquisition rather than evolution. Written word encompasses symbol, letters rather than the actions, the voice infused into the words.

It is true, that recent history would give credit to writing as a custodian of information in ages. However, the meaning and intention of words cannot be totally derived in writing like it would be in speaking. In the study of phonology for example; intonation, stress pattern and arraignment of emotion; the falling and rising pitch of voice are all of invaluable necessity in conserving the sacredness of spoken words and the meaning they espouse. For illustration, a scene of violence would seem more realistic and breathtaking in a movie scene than it would in a book; therefore, voice gives life to written words.

Taking, the quote of Marianne Williamson for example, the quote ”our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…” has been in existence, till life was given to it and its power released when voiced in a speech by Nelson Mandela.

This reminds me of an unforgettable time in my life as a child in primary school, some thirteen years back. I could recall a particular occurrence; the fast approaching pace of our forth coming examination. Ordinarily as it were, Adeolu, a seven year old genius was at the topmost top of our class. His brilliance as to academics exudes stunning confidence. In my worries at over-throwing him as to the first position in class, I consulted my beloved Uncle, Mr. Eedris; a soldier, optimist and a man of sheer reality on how I could achieve my initial stated quest; the enthronement of myself in the first position in our class (since I have always been behind Adeolu with only slight margins). Discussing with Uncle Eedris, I had this memorable conversation that has had a never-ending effect in my entire life:

Me: Uncle Eedris (I called him in my usual low tone)Uncle Eedris: YesMe: can I ask a question? Promise you would not beat meUncle Eedris: oh yes, you can.(He raised his right thumb as a way of promising) No beating!Me: you know my examination is just around the corner? I want something that would help me top the class. Can you help me with something I can use to pass?? I saw one in a movie (I asked this in a hushed tone)(He smiled, although he least expected the question, he answered me like he got answers to everything)Uncle Eedris: are u really sure? (He asked, his eyes tightly squeezed like he was trying to read my mind)(I kept quiet for a while then answered him with a nod)Uncle Eedris: wait here (went in and came back with a white piece of cloth, ashes and charcoals) say after me ” I can do it”(I repeated after him several times while he filled the cloth with sand, ashes and the charcoal and muttered some words at the end)Uncle Eedris: (tightens the cloth in a knot) take this and place it in your palm(I did)Uncle Eedris: that is it. It is the secret to topping the class but you must observe some rules which I want you to listen to very carefully. Always keep it under your pillow when you’re about to sleep and place it on the particular page you’re reading and say ‘I can do it’ ten times. You must say it out and clear. Do you understand?Me: yes sirUncle Eedris: The magic is that you must read not less than two hours every day or else it would never work. Now you go and try itMe: (leapt off my seat as I clutch the magic in my palm and hugged him tightly) thank you Uncle Eedris.

Every day, I observe the rules, ensuring I read an hour above the limit to enhance hundred percent efficiency of the magic. It became a daily routine and finally I topped the class throughout the three terms in Primary four and five. I was so happy and I believed more in it. I waited eagerly one night for Uncle Eedris to come but he never did. Some years later when I was in senior secondary school, I loosened the piece of cloth that has become so round like a ball and inside it was written:

”It was never in this rag, it lies in your words”

The duologue simply express the power hidden in spoken words; if it was in written words, he could have told me to read it that same ten times but because of the beauty, vibes and jives that voice gives to the word made it more inspiring and encouraging.

We could also put forward the superiority of spoken words over penned words considering the ancient drama that has taken its place in the tread of time. If written word was to be of superior importance, there won’t be need for teachers under whose auspices and tutelage; knowledge had in history being transferred. If speech was of less importance, students could have been given textbooks and instructional materials to learn on their own without the aid of a teacher. Therefore, it has been made a mandate that is inextricable; the imperative need of a tutor to their students under scholarly estate of learning in communication of knowledge and acquisition of skills.

To further illustrate the importance of spoken words, it was noted that the ancestral information such as beliefs, customs, traditions and culture were passed from generations to generations during prehistoric era. Spoken word was the legendary way of teaching as of days of old which range from manners, etiquette to petty jobs. Great secrets had been passed too through spoken words. These secrets were passed with the emotion it is meant to pass and these set of people were called ‘custodian of knowledge’. The story of ‘Oduduwa’ who was believed to have come to Earth (Ife- a town in one of the Yoruba states in Nigeria) with the aid of chain was passed through spoken words and almost everyone has knowledge of this history.

To cap it all, spoken words reduce the time for communication to be achieved. It takes longer time for words to be written or words written to be read. It in this light, that Maya Angelou saw the essence of spoken words and not the carcass of assembled symbols and deemed it fit to express it in one of her numerous quote. Indeed, viva voce is the end point of penned.

5 comments on “Spoken Words

  1. Rexford K. Asibuo on

    At first i thought it was going to be “some kind of boring poetry stuff,” but infact i am amazed by its unique performance form.

  2. Cent Uji on

    Good employment of words and matured but some good and unnoticeable errors like: the use of puntuation marks, sentencing, being instead of been, or else instead of else or or and inappropiate use of words with some others unnoticed and to mention all but a few. Thank you. Good trial


    A good write. I like your use of words. You will make a good writer.

    One word of advice: Embrace simplicity more than using big vocabs…you nearly lost me in the opening paragraph or so.

    All the same, a lovely attempt

  4. Shadeola on

    what a nice article u have there. it is expedient that one really sit and go on a journey of deep thought. it is undebatable that civilization has come but the power of speech remains.


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