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TO SHARE: Communication is the lifeblood of society, at the heart of which are words
"IT'S only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." Words uttered, or rather sung, by the musical group Bee Gees, at one time Britain's first family in harmony and successors to the Beatles. Both groups came from Lancashire -- the first from Liverpool from a district called the Beat, hence their name, and the second from Charlton cum Hardy near Manchester.
I can't resist commenting that my own county has the most talented people in the United Kingdom. Take football. Of the 20 clubs in the Premier League, half are from there.
In the music Hall of Fame, the Bee Gees rub shoulders, or should I say, share the mike with the likes of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
No one seems to know for sure where the Bee Gees got their professional name except that they are the Brothers Gibb -- a pair of twins and another sibling.
So, let's take a look at their predilection as above for "words", something that also fascinates me. My favourite pastime is intellectual streaking. I like having fun with words.
Communication is the lifeblood of society, at the heart of which are words. The name comes from the Latin word communis, meaning to share, as exemplified in community or communism.
In today's globalised, interconnected world, we have accomplished the death of distance thanks to the blogosphere, the telephone, the television and all the sophisticated tools and techniques for connectivity.
We may not be in Syria (thank God) but we can follow all the drama and the trauma in our own living room, thanks to the box.
The modern world can sometimes abuse words. We have a new species of "spin doctors", "embedded journalists" and "psy-ops". I have reason to work out what a spin doctor does.
My first husband, Carl Schubert, as many of you will recall, was a famous cricketer -- to be precise, a medium paced, left arm, spin bowler. When he tossed the ball, he put a twist (or a spin) on it to confuse the batsman. A spin doctor does the same with words.
Original ways with words are often the product of a specific culture. We can start with the UK, which, after all, is the land of Shakespeare, with a heritage of word craft and wordsmiths. The usual "Rule Britannia" translated into more modern terms becomes "Cool Britannia". Queen Elizabeth II, who just celebrated her jubilee on the throne, inspiring many accolades, was dubbed "a monarch for all seasons".
In the United States, they prefer the "Boston Tea Party". Although lately, both the UK and the US seem to be in "an economic funk"! I'm using phrases, genuine quotes, not Paddy's creations.
Malaysia is not spared. At present, we are playing "the blame game" supported on "hot goz" in this rumour capital of the world with lots of "finger pointing" provided it doesn't get "out of hand".
We describe Kuala Lumpur as conspicuous for its "urban sprawl" and "city gridlock". Nowadays, it is more the jungle that provides a "national oasis". And since now we are all "mobile savvy", I expect any day to see a baby in a pram using a computer.
Malaysians are very inventive when it comes to wordplay. We have a famous nightclub in Kuala Lumpur called No Black Tie.
Modernity can facilitate or confuse because every word has a literal meaning and another by association.
The word "mother", taken literally, means "female parent" although my own dear mother would not have appreciated it if I had addressed her as the latter.
"Collateral damage" in say, Iraq is a euphemism for "innocent casualties". One man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter", one man's "killer" is another man's "martyr". A war can be seen as "liberation" or "invasion". Some of our worst atrocities are excused as "smart bombs" or "lion cubs" to describe and salute the mere children sent into battle.
It all goes to show how tricky communications can be. Look at the confusion created by just one ocean -- the Atlantic -- separating not only the UK and the US but their vocabularies. Here we have "lifts", they have "elevators". If you fail to show up for a date with me I say "You've let me down". They say just the opposite "You've stood me up".
This situation can often get you into trouble. In my now long life, I have escaped bullets, muggings, earthquakes and physical attack. But not verbal difficulties.
If I survive the onslaught another week, I'd like to recount the hazards I've endured not of nature's fury or mankind's treachery, but the far more completely unsuspected word traps.