The internet and indeed the social media has made communication less cumbersome and given voices to almost anyone who has a unit of megabytes on their smart phones. Ironically, not everyone that uses a smart phone qualifies as smart. The advent of social media has created a new way of easing information and communication needs and what some communication expert call the “rapid-fire quick communication style”. 
Gone are the days when the feedback end of most communication scenarios was far between. In today’s world, the minute you express your line of thought, you begin to get instant feedback on it. Even the radio set which, by the art of circumlocution in the Yoruba morphology, is referred to as “the machine that speaks without getting response(s)” (ero asoro ma’gbesi) now enjoys a two-ended line of communication. The social media age has enabled the “public reply” system where there is an open channel for folks to interact with popular figures and each other in a seamless fashion. Unless for folks who disable the ‘comment’ features of their social platforms, everyone gets a direct message or response for whatever they deem to put out.    

Its tremendous benefits nonetheless, the virtual social media mode of communication has, to some extent, affected the candour with which the exchange of information is done.  With such large platforms and less interactive consequences, people now get to say what they may not say in a normal face-to-face interaction. There seems to be a wide gap between communication quantity and quality. Yes, the rate at which people interact has received a boost. However, the codes that govern its appropriateness seem to have suffered a sharp blow. 

Just for knowledge sake, we should like to know that there are various levels of communicators. Occupying the vast majority are those whose comments completely fall short of the ideals or etiquettes of communication. These folks hardly have any reasonable, useful or constructive point to make. Their contributions on social platforms often border on negativism, pessimism, cynicism et al. On the other hand, there are those who not only have positive things to say but also communicate them positively. These set do not shroud their words in ambiguity neither do they give them offensive or repelling undertones. Interestingly, there are those who supposedly well-meaning sentiments are rubbished through their mode of delivery. They claim to “make a point”, enlighten, or pass across beneficial information but do so in such a way that what they sense in whatever they claim to be saying is lost on how they say it. Think of a man who presents a friend with a shawarma in a filthy wrapper… Folks in this category tend to make their intended points in a sarcastic, offensive and condescending manner. 

It appears that the dynamics of the latter are somewhat ‘interesting’ to consider hence the crux of this write up. The latter residents of the communication complex are essentially strange people. They make statements that set rolling a series of mixed reactions most of which totally deviates from the supposed intended meaning/message of the statements. Their remarks are multi-layered and often set them up for misinterpretation. They make supposedly harmless attempts at making their points but end up hitting the targets of their utterances below the belt. One wouldn’t be amiss to say they suffer from the “rob it in” syndrome because they always want their audience to fill the impart of whatever they say albeit unsavourily. You’ll hear communicators in this category make statements like, I’ll do what I can to assist you. I however need to attend to folks that matter in the meantime. Observe that idea behind the speaker’s statement is a promise to render help. However, the speaker had to spice up the statement by indicating that whoever the object of the promise is isn’t really one that matters – so much for a show of philanthropy.                            

Here is a case study I find particularly intriguing:

A certain celebrity posts the trailer of a soon-to-be-released movie on her Instagram page and in the trailer, one of the casts uses the expression “fool of took” – an expression used in  the famous movie Lord of the Ring to refer to an idiot. Amidst the number of comments generated from the post, one of the commentators stated what she calls “correction” in these words:

Fool of a tuke!.. what’s with you Nigerians, that’s a line from Lord of the Ring. And Tuke is a character name from one of the hobbits. Mtcheeew!

Fell in love with the trailer until I heard the line fool of a tuke! And I was like what WTF!     

When challenged for her untoward comment, the commentator responds that she was only trying to advice that Nollwood practitioners be more original in their delivery and not try to blindly copy ideas from Hollywood without understanding what they stand for.  

While the commentator may have had a sincere and genuine sentiment, her style of expression clouds it. Whatever good message the commentator wished to pass have been rubbished by her mode of delivery.

 First, the commentator begins her comment on a jeering note by putting emphasis on the expression fool of a tuke!. Just as though the expression is the focus of the movie and its supposedly ‘erroneous’ use has rendered the entire movie meaningless.  


Even the ‘all knowing’ commentator couldn’t get her spellings right. In writing the word took, she misspelled it as tuke. One would think the lady is meticulous enough not to have made such mistake. 


She then asks a rhetorical question – an irritating one at that: What’s with you Nigerians? With that question, she already lumps the entire citizenry into a mound of mediocrity. Her questions, within the context of her entire comment, indirectly says Nigerians, whether a movie practitioner or not, are devoid of originality. Observe her choice of words: “you Nigerians”. With that expression, what immediately comes to mind is that the commentator isn’t a Nigerian hence her disgust for the way we do things. However, having checked her profile, it is discovered that not only is she a Nigerian but she also plies her trade as a “media person” in Lagos. This realisation makes one breed a sense of irritation towards a phony who is trying to isolate herself from a situation she is most likely part of. 


Then comes the epic hissing sound folks make to express disjust toward something or someone mtcheeew. Now, unless that sound has taken on a new meaning these days, its use in that discourse situation is so unjustifiable.


Our dear commentator tells us that her “love” for the trailer “disappears” the moment she heard one of the casts use the expression fool of a tuke. What a love! It’s highly unlikely if she can sustain a relationship because, from the look of things, she may likely call a relationship quit at the utterance of any “unintelligent” expression by her partner.   


Here comes the final straw that breaks the camel’s back – the use of the highly offensive expression WTF!  This is an abbreviation for What the f**k. The commentator makes an attempt at being euphemistic by abbreviating the expression. The question is why try to use an expression that won’t be well received by your audience. If I can restrain myself enough from spelling out a dirty word, I should be able to restrain myself from using it all together.

Instead of sounding irritating and putting off her audience with swear words, she could have expressed her sentiment in the following words:

I just saw the movie trailer. While I love its content, I have a reservation with the use of the expression fool of a tuke by one of the casts. The expression is a direct lifting from Lord of the Ring and was not used in the right context in the trailer. I feel Nollywood movie practitioners can be more original and creative with their lines.

We shouldn’t throw the baby away with the bath water, some will advocate. Ignore the mode of expression and focus on the message, others will preach. Should we then tolerate excesses, anomalies and misnomers in the name of making a point? What does it take to state a point in the appropriate way? Just as whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, whatever is worth saying is worth saying well!  To say the right thing the wrong way is to say the wrong thing. One who wishes to establish his point should be diligent about how he passes it across. People fail to understand that the relationship between what you say and how you say it is not mutually exclusive; rather, they are conjoined. The mode of delivery has a way of imparting what is said. One fails to communicate when the intended meaning of one’s message is not received by the audience. To ensure that what meaning is being communicated is well received, the speaker should ensure clarity, conciseness and zero ambiguity. To say you mean to correct me with derogatory and demeaning statements is to be insincere. Children who were nurtured by typical African parents are not alien to the pattern of this latter mode of communication. For instance, many mothers end up inflicting emotional/psychological pain (through offensive/abusive words) on their children in their bid to correct them for a wrong.   

Obscenities have no place in polite and mature conversations. Distasteful expressions and offensive words have the capacity to turn the recipient off regardless of how substantial or valuable its content it. Making a point with profanities and repulsive words is tantamount to not desiring to make one’s point achieve its intended purpose. If certain expressions carry negative connotations and can easily alienate the audience, shouldn’t they be avoided for the sake of positive reception? It’s like preparing a delicious meal of fried rice and garnishing it with a sprinkling of sand – no matter how well done it was, no right thinking folk will be eager to eat it. 

Image credit: HealthImaging 


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