A Speech Act

Dear Ian,

Today is Singapore’s national day, which is also a holiday. You did a ‘timetable’ last evening, indicating what homework is outstanding and what is the schedule for getting them done. You didn’t factor in spending more than 3 hours watching the National Day Parade live on TV from 5.30 until almost 10pm, (oh, didn’t I forget, you also wanted to watch the new TV series ‘Mata Mata‘; and then following up, the News.

Of course, you couldn’t finish your homework on schedule! notwithstanding the play time, and all the delays. Welcome to reality.

I thought it was a good opportune to share with you ‘determination’, and what it means. Well, son, in linguistics, we learned something called a ‘speech act‘ , which basically means that a word is nothing but a word, unless an action is done for it. Sat when a person says ‘I’m sorry’. It is a spoken act of remorse, it basically doesn’t change anything to the deed or misdeed already committed, which warrants the apology. And yet, ‘sorry’ seems to be the hardest word.

Well, back to determination. I asked you how determined are you to see to it that you finish your work, there was a lack of will on your part. You say you’ll wake up earlier tomorrow and see to it that you finish it.

Well, son, how determined are you to see to it that you complete what you time tabled to do?

‘Determined’ is simply a word. A word is nothing more than a couple of letters strung together.Hell, It is nothing more than a control of our vocal cords to make that sound ‘determined’.

And yet, there is an action to the speech. It can simply be a word, a sound, it is your action that makes the word ‘work’. You need to ‘work the word’ to make a meaning out of it. And make a meaning that is personal to you. I want you to remember this day when you put the word ‘determination’ to work. You sitting there to do up one part of your English homework, is determination at work. So now I hope that when you say ‘determination’ you know when to associate an action, a decision to it, and this will be personal to you.

So I hope words don’t just mean words, when you make it work, you make the words.


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