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Away with Words

The author in the early years, dressed as 'Eric'.

The writer as ‘Eric’

Right from the first three hundred and sixty-five days of my life, I understood the importance of words in getting things done. Nni mu o (translated as an exclamation calling for my food) I would shout to grandma, or mother, banging on my aluminum plate with a silver spoon. I quickly learned the power of words to provoke affirmative action for a cause dear to one’s mind. In this peculiar instance, it was my call for food, or cry of hunger; whichever one will paint the picture for you. Those were my early years in life. Family members sang food songs for me and called me Eric. I wanted my food growing up. Now as an adult, I live a near-anorexic life, swinging between self-imposed food fasts and depressive lusting to satiate my sweet tooth. The consequence is that I have weighted an average of fifty-six to sixty kilograms for about two decades now-half my lifetime. Words have allowed me to make assertions and commitments, uplifting and damning; compromising and hypocritical. After receiving the gift of a dictionary from dad at the age of eight, I delved into the meaning of words. My reading of books was enriched, as it also became ways of improving communication skills, apart from other ideas that books contain. Easily, one can get into a language twist trying to communicate in a foreign language. Things could also get out of hand when one meets the proposed literature of the era, mine the post-colonial period of Africa. I knew more words in the foreign language that expressed daily existence than in the native tongue. Literature-in-English classes painted the beauty and complexity of language, showing contextual, symbolic and other ic-ish isms that make up language. The day I met Poetry, the word world was reborn. I saw(and understood)how words can have dual meanings and sounds not just depending on the vocal skills of the speaker, but also on the experiences and associations that could be implied beyond the speaker, towards the audience. I enjoyed even the aural sensations of the spoken word, the alluring smooth transitions- phonetics, of homonyms, synonyms and antonyms, and the use of appropriate word to communicate meaning. Maybe it was the wordsmiths themselves who opened the door to bad language ( like what happened with the anti-art art movements) when they allowed free verse to become another style of writing poetry. The artist immediately grabbed on the audacity of the idea, and unfortunately, some went wild with it. As is the case with even good things, weaker talents absorbed this tool and used it as a podium to claim artistic license. Other men took it a step further, applying such license to their daily communication. We live in an age where silence is no longer golden, where noise is the centre, dispelling all illusions and claiming importance by virtue of its audacity. More and more, the mythical, spiritual mind-set of the natives is being scorched by the white-washed niceties and intrusions of these times. It is the age of flying, fleeting words. Sometimes, due to the urgency of the period, words are shared as abbreviations and acronyms. People are getting away with words that would not enter polite conversation or intellectual circles in the past. It’s the way of the world, and we can get away with words easily, freely shared, bloated with error. All said, no one is listening.

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