Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Monday Musings 313 - The supremacy of Verbs – An Israel Vs India story

Monday Musings - The supremacy of Verbs – An Israel Vs India story

A study published in Psychological Science by Michal Reifen-Tagar and Orly Idan from Israel has confirmed that a good way to use language to reduce tension is to rely whenever possible on nouns rather than verbs.
According to the Economist, which in a recent issue carries this story has the following things to say about this – ‘’...using nouns more often shapes behaviour”. For example ‘’I am in favour of removal of settlers’’ will be more palatable to negotiation rather than using ‘’I am in favour of removing settlers’’ (Note that the researchers are from Israel and hence they are using this research to solve real life problems of Palestine, Gaza strip et al), I cannot but smile at this.
In India such research would fall on its face. We are the kings & queens of verbs. In fact we use our nouns also with the effect of verbs. Let me illustrate.
Verbs provide imagery – you can practically touch the situation unfold in front of you. Parents to Children (at least during my times) would be commonly heard saying ‘’if you do not study you shall end up begging on the streets’’ Please note the imagery of the verb is so vivid that the child has no choice but to pick up the books. The noun form of this sentence is so utterly unimaginative ‘’you shall become a beggar’’. Nah – does not work at all.
When I look back at all the reprimands as a kid I was subjected to or got to hear them, the most effective of them have always had verbs in them. Nouns somehow do not evoke the same melodrama. Sample this. On seeing an unkempt room – ‘’bilkul junglii ho gaye ho tum - ye kamara jaanwaron ke rehne layak bhi nahi hai’’ (i always wanted to ask back – aapne dekha bhi hai jaanwar kaise rehte hain !!. I mean who compares a slightly disordered and malodorous room with a stable or a kennel; melodrama is a weapon Indian parents have long used to cover up for the lack of logic and factual accuracies.)
Verbs have another distinct quality in them. They are extremely action oriented. For example ‘’maar maar ke kaddu bana dunga’’ or for that matter ‘’khaal kheench ke usme bhoosa bhar dunga’’ is so precise in the outcome that it has no choice but to be effective. A hapless child prefers the trauma of studying to the prospect of the skin being peeled – smart choice I would say.
What parents could not achieve, often bosses try to accomplish – with varying degrees of effectiveness of course. On submission of a project or a work one can hear many versions of feedback and many of them are sublime verbs. ‘’you are BS-ing’’ is far more personal than ‘’this is BS’’. The idea of a feedback is to make it as personal as possible. ‘’You are crossing the line here’’ has a better chance of being heard than ‘’a line is being crossed here’’. Eventually ‘’I am sacking you’’ is far more gratifying than ‘’you are sacked’’. The Israeli researcher should have checked with us before wasting their time.
The Israeli researcher may not know this, but for us language is often a weapon, preferably of mass destruction type. Words must inflict maximum impact (read damage). Subtlety is for the meek and faint hearted (i.e. videshis; swadeshi must scream to be heard is the belief in some quarters).Look at our abuses for instance. They are explicit, descriptive, creative and quite action oriented. They are filled with verbs – of what the abuser intends to do. An abuse is worthless if it is an idea in the abstract – it is a piece of gem when it specifically tells you what shall be done (voila – a verb!).
Post script: There is only place the superiority of the verbs over nouns got tested during my childhood. I must give it to the nouns as a post script. ‘’You are a donkey’’ was infinitely more precise, accurate and effective than any verb form of it. My parents will strongly disagree with the Israelis!


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