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The Punchy Pun

“In oratorical imagery the best feature is always its reality and truth,” said Cassius Longinus, a Roman orator and statesman. “When the spoken words work ethically as well as effectively, they bring home to listeners the reality and truth of a situation.”

So is the oomph of the spoken word: more colorful and more intense and more effective than the written language. When skillfully used, the spoken language can reach others in ways that the written words cannot. Effective use of a spoken language can help you influence the lives of the listeners instantaneously.

Our grasp of the power of the spoken word must begin with understanding the difference between the oral language and the written language. One of the most striking differences is that the oral language is more spontaneous and less formal than the written language. However, our understanding of this art is incomplete if we fail to learn how to weave a fabric of words that expresses our messages with clarity, power, and beauty so that listeners will understand and remember what you say and relate it to their lives. This brings us to the basic metaphor for the skills of language use: when speaking on controversial subjects, we must choose the most compelling arguments to advance our position. Remember: the skillful use of wording can evade even the most cunning questions and the skillful orators and wordsmiths always find their way out when faced with a rhetorical question or an awkward situation. Here is a striking use of language where an answer seems to evade a tricky question:

A legislator was asked to advance his position on how he felt about whisky.

He replied, “When you say whiskey, if you mean the Devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, creates misery and poverty- yes, literally takes the bread from the mouths of the little children; if you mean the drink that topples Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, despair, shame and helplessness, then certainly I am against it with all my power.”

“But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in an old gentleman’s step on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink, the sales of which pours into our treasury untold millions of dollars which are used to provide tender care for our crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, pitiful, aged and infirm, to build highways, hospitals, and schools, then certainly I am in favor of it… That is my stand, and I will not compromise!”

So, where is your stand – in favor or against?

Issa Adem (Assistant Professor of English, CBSS, Adi Keih)

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