”Waxx soxu fetal la; su reccee, dabu ko wees.”
English translation: Words are like bullets; once they escape, you can’t catch them again.
Some time in 2008, a few months after graduating from high school, I did an internship at a certain radio station. I would call in everyday, but things were moving too slow for me. Some days, we’d just sit around, hooked to the few computers, surfing in and out of social networks. Other times, I’d be asked to write essays/articles, to determine my level. A few times, I got to record advertisements. These moments, I loved and hoped to have more of. Unfortunately, they weren’t forthcoming and I found myself losing interest. One day, I was in the studio with my friend, tired from sitting around all day. Our supervisors were busy recording adverts and cooking up jingles. One of them turned to me and said ‘Jama, you’re unusually quiet. What’s up?’ In my frustration, I didn’t even stop for a second to think before responding, ‘I’m bored and sick of it. I can’t wait to get out of here’. The room suddenly got silent and everyone turned to look at me. My friend looked at me in surprise and exclaimed, ‘Jama, that’s not a nice thing to say’. I just shrugged it off. To me, it wasn’t that serious; to them, I was being rudely assertive (or maybe the other way round?). After getting home and stuffing my face with all the food I could find, I sat to think of what I’d said. I realised that I’d probably expressed my true feelings, but I could have done it in a more respectful way. I blamed it on my hunger, boredom and frustration. For many days after that, some of them gave me the cold shoulder and would reply to my questions with the most minimal of words. They eventually got over it, but I shall never forget the experience. I wished I could take back the words, coat them in caramel, then throw them out. I didn’t mean to hurt or offend anyone at the time, but I’ve learned to be considerate of people’s feelings when choosing my words.
Being careful with the words one uses is the principal value of this proverb.We all know the power of words, whether written or spoken. This proverb mainly seeks to guide people on their choice of words. Our ancestors and even the present-day elders place(d) great emphasis on respect, making sure the young ones learn to say the right things at the right time, to the right people. People may forget what you did for/to them, but words have a way of staying in our memories, sometimes influencing our attitudes towards others. The Wolof teach that every person is responsible for what he says. Acknowledging this proverb helps in guiding people to be wary of what they say.
Instead of using words to hurt, use them to help. A few nice words can go a long way in changing your life. I’m a witness to this and I hope you all do not have to go through the awkwardness of it all. Be assertive, express your thoughts, stand by your opinion, but do it in the most respectful way possible. A kind word never broke anyone’s mouth! 🙂
~Beh benen aljuma~