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Power of language

Language is a powerful atom and the energy it emits is so powerful that it can both mend and bend relations. It can fuse incompatible relations. It can also set a fission (chain) reaction in emotional and sensitive relations. This atom is a good servant but a bad master. Rajan Kapoor writes.

punjab Updated: Aug 08, 2013 09:04 IST
Rajan Kapoor

Language is a powerful atom and the energy it emits is so powerful that it can both mend and bend relations. It can fuse incompatible relations. It can also set a fission (chain) reaction in emotional and sensitive relations. This atom is a good servant but a bad master. It is like a double-edged sword that can both slay an enemy and wound a friend. It is not simply a carrier of feelings and emotions but a powerful tool to control and run down a race.


The imperial powers exploited this tool intelligently to perpetuate their unjust rule. The ignominious expression, "Dogs and Indians are not allowed," is a testimony to exploitative use of language. The word 'black' was used by imperialists to further their evil designs. The African race was categorised as 'black', while damsels from the continent were dubbed black beauties. The use of the word 'black' in a derogatory way marginalised the subjects of colonies and put them in the 'other' category. Expressions such as "Long live the king", "My excellency" or "My Lord" were intentionally used by the European colonisers to beat people of Asia and Africa psychologically.

Language is gender discriminatory too. While "governor" stands for a top executive post, "governess" denotes a position in society that has little significance and respect. The same is the case with "courtier" and "courtesan".

Language can be both a fire and a friend. The manner in which Indian king Porus asked Greek ruler Alexander to treat him the way a victorious king treats a defeated one, won him back his life and kingdom. On the contrary, Draupadi's use of the stinging expression, "A blind man's son is blind too" for Prince Duryodhana led to the bloody battle of Mahabharata.

There is a story about a blind boy seeking alms. He was sitting on a busy pathway in a city on a bright day with a hat kept alongside which read, "I'm blind, please help." A major part of the day lapsed but there were only a few coins in his hat. A passer-by wrote the words, 'Today is a sunny day. You can see. How lucky you are!' on the hat. The effect of these words was amazing for within hours the hat was full of shining coins.

The lack of knowledge of a language can often lead to embarrassing situations. For instance, once interviewers asked a candidate the antonym of 'entry' to which he replied 'dysentery', leading to peels of laughter besides raising a stink!

So, language is like an atom full of energy that we must learn to handle with care.