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The foot in the mouth disease

punjab Updated: Sep 25, 2013 09:10 IST
Parambir Kaur
Parambir Kaur
Hindustan Times
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"Oh! I have such a bad taste in my mouth!" exclaimed someone at a party.
"What have you been eating?" enquired an acquaintance.
"Words," was the answer.

The eating habits of people have undergone a sea change. Besides pizza, burger, noodles and innumerable whatnots, now they seem to like eating words as well.


Now, once in a while, it's okay to chew words. More is hard to digest. English writer Thomas Carlyle said: "Be not the slave of words." "Think before you speak," is also the forgotten adage. Some people speak first and start thinking later, thinking that if they are busy thinking, the listeners will move on. What to do then? Utter what comes to the mind and, later, chew up the extra. Yes!

Words, however, cannot be called back. Tell it to people who have words in abundance and make a torrential downpour of these, most of which they have to eat later. Good at keeping the expression, they can't be embarrassed. It seems to whet their appetite.

So many times, even the people in responsible positions have to eat their words. English poet Alexander Pope wrote:

"Words are like leaves and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found."

Discerning people, however, will not utter a word without thinking. A careful and restricted use of words is their hallmark. They are in full command of words. If at all one or two words overpower them and try to act smart, it can be heard about them: "Really, I can't believe they said that!" The people of this order adorn every place with their presence, and are always looked upon with respect, for not having become the slaves of words. They are a winsome asset to society.

Words, at best, can only be written, spoken or sometimes even left unsaid. Appropriate words at opportune moment can be a blessing for the speaker as well as the listener. American historian and philosopher of technology Lewis Mumford also emphasised the significance of words when he enunciated: "It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool; without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless."