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Sunday
, September 15, 2002
Article

Of chatter & chatterboxes
A. J. Singh

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiTHE all-pervasive influence of the mind over matter is well known. But once in a while we do see the influence of the mind over chatter.

Undoubtedly, speech is a priceless gift. It is an index of the mind. Yet speech is seldom given the respect that it truly deserves.

Its most glaring misuse is well-known: the wasting of millions of words every day by idle chatterers. Yet these chatter-boxes of the world are blissfully unaware of it. Despite this, they are still far better than the malicious gossip-mongers. On the whole, chatter-boxes are good-hearted and well-meaning persons. They really want to be friendly and their chatter is directed towards seeking friendship only.

But they suffer from misconception. They believe that their incessant chatter makes them truly charming, distinct and interesting characters. This, they think, will attract others towards them. But the truth is otherwise. Instead, over a period of time, these chatter-boxes end up being labelled as big bores by those who suffer them. They are then quickly shunned.

 


Of course, the chatter of children is delightful when it is available in reasonable doses. The ability to talk freely is an exciting experience for children as the sound of strange words fascinates them. Thatís how their vocabulary grows with practice. In school, the teachers, however, restrict their chatter to a great extent. Were they not to do so, the children would never learn their lessons.

A wise English teacher used to make the children in his class repeat aloud, at least once-a-month, the following rhyme for obvious reasons:

"A wise old owl lived in an oak.

The more he saw, the less he spoke.

The less he spoke, the more he heard.

Now children, remember this wise old bird.

Most chatter-boxes hardly realise that the more they chatter, the less they can learn from the sights and sounds around them. Of course, the less they learn, the less worthwhile a contribution they are able to make to an intelligent conversation.

But once in a while, in a company where too many words seem to be flowing around, you may notice a person sitting quietly in a corner. He merely sits and listens to the ongoing conversation without opening his mouth. Those engaged in conversation usually ignore his presence. In a way, this silent person might as well not exist.

However, during a lull in the conversation, the "silent one" looks up and, often makes a pithy comment relevant to the subject under discussion.

The result is almost shattering. How did it happen? The silent listener has all along been all-attention to the flow of salient points made by the participants. Thus, his own observation comes out of this. And, his single utterance says a lot. In all probability, what he says is, remembered when the rest of the talk has long been forgotten. His contribution can be called what Wordsworth referred to as "choice word and measured phrase, above the rest of ordinary men."

Indeed!

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