• A ransom of words


    RANSOM demanded in utter urgency, ransom paid pronto—10 to 20 pages of a storybook, read aloud by their grandmother held hostage by such caprice. After such a tradeoff, sibling tykes Musa and Oyayi Delgado, respectively five and four years old, would willingly take 40 winks or welcome the sandman, whichever comes first. No weaning from such a read-me-a-story habit, elders indulge them.

    The habit makes the children become acquainted with, yeah, acquire their first hoard of words.

    As composition teacher Jose Sabangan—he taught in the late 1960s at the University East Secondary Training Department before moving to New York to teach English to Americans—said back then, “Take firm grasp, keep a new word each day. In a year, that’s 365 words at your command. Keep doing that over the years. In 10 years, you have a 3,650-strong army of words that can do your bidding to shape your life.”

    As it turned out, a 3,650-strong vocabulary acquired in 10 years breaches a 3,000-word minimum that it takes to get a job. Findings show that the words one has, the so-called word power, determines one’s role in civilization. Too, limitations on vocabulary also limit an individual’s potential role.

    Research found that 700 words at the individual’s command would be enough for him to get along; 3,000 to have a job; at least 10,000 to have a social role, and a stockpile of about 60,000 words to attain the caliber of a William Shakespeare, a Wolfgang von Goethe, Rabindranath Tagore, or a Confucius.

    “As Plato understood, there is really only one serious political topic. It is more serious than war . . . It is the upbringing of children; all else turns on that,” insists conservative Pulitzer prizewinning journalist-author George F. Will.

    On such note, researchers ramped up Friday what Will insists on, saying “baby talk is more than just bonding: chatting with your infant spurs important brain development that sets the stage for lifelong learning.

    “It’s not just how much speech you get, but the kind of speech you get. Speech needs to be rich and complex,” said Erika Hoff, a psychologist at Florida Atlantic University.

    As reported by the Agence France Presse: “Talking to babies is so important that researchers say it is a major reason why children from disadvantaged backgrounds perform poorly in school.

    “By the time they reach the age of five, the children of low-income, poorly educated parents typically score two years behind their privileged peers on standardized language tests.”

    In the same briefing with newsmen, Columbia University neurologist and pediatrician Kimberly Noble said, “With increasing age, children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds devoted more neural real estate to those regions (that correspond to brain structures for language development).”

    A caring parent rich or poor need not impoverish her offspring with silence or indifference—the young can suckle on words, lush, dulcet and opulent to nourish the growing mind.

    “En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos,” begins an account of the Good News, pointing up the divine thrumming in words that can take flesh, dwell in reality.

    Logos or reason is rooted in the Indo-European leg, which means, “to speak” and “leech.” It gave rise to the Latin legere, from which “lecture,” “legal,” “legible” and “legislator” were turned up.

    Yes, both “leech” and “legislator” suck—but word-wise, they seem to be the same.


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