Being neither a politician nor a petty potentate, I donât relish the idea of people wishing me more power in the closings of their e-mails or snail mails. I know they mean well, but I get the queasy feeling that they donât really mean it. I just donât think that âMore power!â is to be taken in the same spirit as âAll the best!â and âCheers!â At any rate, I get âMore power!â wishes so often in my mail that I decided to express my misgivings with that particular wish in an essay I wrote for my English-usage column in The Manila Times
in February last year. I am posting that essay in the Forum this week in the hope that when Forum members and guests read it, they would understand why I would greatly welcome being felicitated some other way. (October 23, 2010)Please donât wish me âMore power!â
Some of you may find it odd, but I do wish that friends and readers who keep on wishing me âMore power!â in their e-mail closings would stop doing so. Frankly, I feel a tinge of irony or even sarcasm in that expressionâeven if I know itâs not meant to be that way. Itâs just that whenever people wish me âMore power!â I get the queasy feeling that they presume that I have an insatiable craving for it, or that I have somehow shown a significant weakening in my writing or in my physical demeanor.
If you want to know why I feel so strongly against the use of âMore power!â in correspondence, let me tell you that over a fourth of the e-mails I receive from readers of this column use that expression to felicitate me. And when I made a full-year tally of the closings of the 94 letters to the editor of a monthly magazine for which I made a communication audit in 2008, the score was this: 29 âMore powers!â (30.8 percent), 28 all other compliments (29.8 percent), and 37 no compliments at all (39.4 percent).
So this question comes to mind: Why are so many people these days wishing other people âMore power!â in this land? Has there been a general weakening in the sinew and spirit of the people that they need to be reminded to display more pep and vigor? Or is there, in fact, a perceived craving for more power among the population that needs to be filled even if only vicariously?
I ask these questions because according to my digital Merriam Websterâs 11th Collegiate Dictionary
, the word âpowerâ still means âpossession of control, authority, or influence over others.â So why would anyone even think of wishing someone to have more power than what he or she already has? For purely selfish reasons, wouldnât it be more natural for people to wish more power for themselvesâeven if they already have lots of it? Whatâs the point of unnaturally wishing other people to have more of it?
I actually suspect that this propensity for âMore power!â closings is uniquely Filipino. Iâve researched the expression with Google and I didnât find it in any of the comprehensive lists of English-language letter closings. So I guess that sometime somewhere in these islands, a powerful role modelâperhaps a high-profile public figure or some forceful English professorâmust have written or uttered that expression and convinced a lot of people that it was socially graceful to use it. Why else would so many people think that saying âMore power!â is not only appropriate but also chic and classy?
On the contrary, though, I think âMore power!â belongs to the same league as the truncated expression âGod bless!â This isnât a solely Filipino expression, of course, but I canât help but wonder: Why canât people say âGod bless you!â in full? Using the objectless âGod bless!â seems to me a sign that people find saying the full expression embarrassing. And I wonât buy the explanation that people probably only want to make that expression parallel to the expression âGoodbye!â That one has its object built into itâfor itâs actually the universally accepted shorthand for âGod be with you!â
So then, to my friends and readers, spare me from any more âMore powers!â when felicitating me. Wish me âAll the best!â or to âHave a nice day!â Send me your âBest wishes!â or âCheers!â or your âWarmest personal regards!â Wish me to âBe safe, be healthy, be happy!â if you really mean it. But please, donât wish me âMore Power!â ever again. If you continue to do so, your wish might be granted every time and I just might acquire too much power. You wonât like it when I turn into a petty despot, no longer able to see things clearly and responsibly the way I still can right now. (February 28, 2009)
---------From the weekly column âEnglish Plain and Simpleâ by Jose A. Carillo in
The Manila Times, February 28, 2009 Â© 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.