Siphiwe Online
Posted on 23/11/2016 by S'phiwe on Pointless

Show off

So… Akere – among ourselves – we are either broke or we haven’t been wealthy for long so we don’t know what we don’t know about becoming wealthy and staying wealthy and we think about being wealthy in terms of lifestyle/social status. Yes? So we think luxury cars, expensive clothes, fun stuff, being the envy of others, etc.

In other words, we think about being rich in terms of things we consume which (can) make us FEEL rich. As a matter of fact, we don’t think about wealth, we think about feel-good and look-good consumables, and we identify people as rich when we see them in expensive cars, clothes, etc.

My late uncle was always the de facto speech guy at parties, funerals, weddings, etc, because he threw the biggest English words we’d ever heard. You know, bombastic words? Yea, those. At my maternal grandmother’s funeral, all that my 10 year old mind could grasp was his opening, which sounded like “Remblester king… Remblester Queen…” I later looked it up in the dictionary but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t get anything else he said in that speech because I’d held on to the “remblester” and I wasn’t sure I could memorize any more words to later look up. He’s one of the people who made me study the dictionary at some point in my life because I wanted to also sound clever like that and I actually tried going from page 1 to the end, without success.

I thought of language proficiency in terms of the number of big words I could fit into sentences whenever I spoke. I didn’t connect them to anything of substance that I may have conveyed through such words, and it didn’t occur to me that most people wouldn’t even understand that. I was interested in how that would make me sound smart. Today I know that language proficiency is much easier than that. A layer of commonly used vocabulary on top of good grammar, equips the speaker to reach the widest audience; and the simpler the words you use, the more substance you can pack in your message. When you string together big words using bad grammar, you sound like my friend who used to insist on referring to his car as “the BMW” and it always had to find its way into whatever conversation we might have. Like, out of nowhere, he might relate a story of how he got lost at the mall and couldn’t figure out where he parked “the BMW” and….. Anything from that point onwards was just a space filler while we digest the fact that he drives “the BMW.” Needless to say, he wasn’t that kind of guy. Maybe his show-off was part of his coping mechanism because he happened to be going through a hectic storm in his life at the time.
[End detour]

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with big words, expensive cars, clothes, etc. However, I doubt you’d still be reading this if every second sentence sounded like “remblester this” and “remblester that.” In fact, when I took interest in big words, I wanted those words that could be found only in exclusive dictionaries and encyclopaedias, etc. But when it comes time to do life, we find that indeed, people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. Behind the expensive stuff, the big words – the show-off – there had better be substance to make it all worth acquiring and keeping even if nobody knew that we were the people who own/use them. A good command of any language is only as valuable as it enables us to convey substance so well, that the intended audience will understand it and might put it to good use. And if they don’t choose to put it to use at all, our job is still done.

To quote a certain Wittgenstein “the limits of my language are the limits of my mind. I don’t know what I don’t have words for.” If big words, expensive possessions, etc, aren’t helping us express our deepest and most meaningful contribution to the world, all we are doing is tell people “remblester king” and “remblester queen” and nobody knows what on earth that is nor has time to listen to whatever else we have to say; and before we know it, we’ll be like the rich kid who’s got the toys and people will suck up to us in order to get to play with our toys.The goal of showing off our enviables only impresses those who are less fortunate than ourselves and makes us no different from those who take pictures when they make donations to the poor and post them on social networks.

Whatever our goal may be, maybe we need to have clarity of purpose from the onset: why do we want wealth, vocabulary, etc? If the answer is to do with boosting our ego, we need to aim a little higher and remember that there’s always someone wealthier, better looking, more eloquent, etc, than us.

And if you read up to this point, remblester you!

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