중앙데일리

[VIEWPOINT]The choice of words reveals much

June 03,2003
I tend to speak whatever is on my mind. So I’ve been considered unqualified as a guest for a live broadcast for a long time. When I write, my words are automatically filtered through a pen and paper, but in speaking, it is very hard to control my tongue because there are no such devices to do that. This is why I have spoken more tip- of-the-tongue slips than I have made mistakes in writing.
The real issue is whether I have any intention or motive to create any uncomfortable situation with such loose talk. If my words and deeds have betrayed any bits of inappropriate intention, could I have so long hosted the television program, “Live Experience of Work Sites” or the talk show, “Human Exploration: People Jo Young-nam Has Met.” Absolutely not. Broadcasters are seldom easygoing. They will never let someone who speaks on whatever he wishes host their programs.
I may seem to speak randomly on the surface, but I always set out to do a broadcast based on my own principles. What are those principles? They are sort of strategies for delivering easy-to-understand, interesting and, above all, frank messages. In this respect, speech is an art, nothing different from music, fine art or literature. That is, speech also requires the same high level of skill as the other fields of art.
The following is also included in my principles: Wherever I am, I only use words whose meanings I definitely know. From an early age, I decided not to use words whose meanings I didn’t know. If I continue to utter such words, I may talk nonsense and become hypocritical. When the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization’s nuclear reactor project was suddenly being referred to by nearly everyone, I asked people around me: “What on earth is a light water nuclear reactor?” Believe it or not, no one could explain it properly. More recently, all the talk about the teachers union’s threats to stage a collective annual leave was widely spread among people, and so I asked again “What is the collective annual leave? What is it used for?” I may have only addressed some ignorant people in my quest, but no one gave me a right answer. Of course, I managed to learn the meaning after asking lots of people the same questions over and over on the telephone.
I have a third, determined strategy: Never utter the phrase “frankly speaking.” This is a very old and unchangeable rule with me. I made it my rule and have forced myself to abide by it for decades. If anyone can confront me with any evidence or proof that he heard Jo Young-nam say “frankly speaking,” I am ready to reward him with as much money as he wants.
Why am I so allergic to those two words? If I happen to utter “frankly speaking,” all words said before that moment can be interpreted as not having been spoken frankly. Therefore, I strongly urge my juniors in school or at work to find ways to express the same meaning with different phrases or to live a life where no such phrases are needed at all. Until now, when one of them violates the rule, I never pass up the chance to become harshly critical. How can I overlook them using words that crooks or cheats seem to prefer most?
There are words that can be said and ones that should not be said. Some time ago I was surprised to hear someone in a high position say, “I can’t do my job.” Like “frankly speaking,” this expression is better not said. If, during the rehearsal for “Open Concert,” I throw away the score, saying, “I can’t do this job,” how ugly that would appear! Frankly speaking.

* The writer is a popular singer.


by Jo Young-nam


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