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Insult More Nicely   
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“He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.

It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash,” H. L. Mencken, an American journalist and critic of Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), American President.

Psychologists will tell you that in every given situation, people react differently. What do you do when you are insulted? Compare the reaction of a dog and a cat to a given situation: where a dog might react with a bark, wow! wow! wow! a cat will blink or wink at it, and stay as cool as if nothing had transpired.

When you are insulted, you can react calmly or boisterously. You can be squeamish or be petulant. The synonyms for squeamish include dainty, fastidious, prudish, gingerly, delicate.

The synonyms for petulant include: fretful, touchy, quarrelsome, irritable, temperamental, short-tempered, and waspish. It is said that ‘it takes two to tango’; that suggests that two persons or groups may engage in a quarrel or conflict or exchange of atrocities. You can trade insults with humour. Laughter is one of the best medicines for insults. When you are insulted, just laugh it off, and the insult will not stick. Or when you are insulted, just give a very big yawn, then take a look at your watch or your shirt or your trousers. You could be outwardly calm, but inwardly alert.

Ms. Ursula Owusu does it so perfectly on Metro TV.

Panelists on radio and television shows, these days, have shown the way. They start the programme with something like: “Let me use this opportunity to say good morning or good evening to your cherished listeners”. Kwesi Pratt and Professor Agyekum are not really fond of that, and Professor Agyekum thinks his presence on the radio station is enough evidence of a well-wish to staff and students of Legon’s Linguistics Department and to the Vice Chancellor.

What about patting the insulting interlocutor on the shoulder and telling him, “Man, I think you’re under stress”. It will work wonders. There may be no need to show anger or annoyance; although anger and annoyance are facts of life. The world is filled with hatred, aggression, violence and war. A child cries out of frustration and anger. An adult may not cry but may bang a table when he or she is in his or her tantrums; or when he or she flies into a rage or when he or she allows his or her emotions to take the better of him or her.

In Corinthians 13: 11, Paul, the Apostle says: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”. Thus, an adult can control his or her temper or emotions in a way a child cannot. Whereas a child begins to articulate, a man (or woman) has the power of utterance. As a child, you may have fixed your attention on things which as an adult you rather regard as of little value and importance.

Politicians are enjoined to be wary of their utterances, so as not to foment violent reactions.

Do you remember September 30, 2005?

That was the day a Danish newspaper, ‘Jyllands – Posten’ published some cartoons which some Moslems regarded as mocking or insulting their religion. This provoked widespread violence and atrocities. A Danish embassy was destroyed; some deaths were reported; and foreign relations got strained.

You have your honour and reputation to protect. Do not let anybody manipulate you or push you or coerce you into reacting furiously. On the other hand, you should not manipulate or push or coerce others into reacting furiously.

We do not need to be pugilistic or pugnacious to send our messages across.

A salubrious attitude- benign, invigorating, or therapeutic – could set the appropriate tone for healthy co-existence. Where you find it necessary to condescend, do so. The tongue is very powerful: it has the power to cause life or death. Let us speak more carefully, more politely, more affably, and more nicely, you don’t need to insult nicely. Don’t insult at all.

Dedicated to the thousands who lost their lives in the US September, 11 attack.
Source: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

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