Author Topic: My misgivings when people wish me more power  (Read 24319 times)

Joe Carillo

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My misgivings when people wish me more power
« on: October 23, 2010, 09:22:37 PM »
Being neither a politician nor a petty potentate, I don’t 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 don’t really mean it. I just don’t think that “More power!” is to be taken in the same spirit as “All the best!” and “Cheers!” At any rate, I get “More power!” 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 don’t wish me “More power!”

Some of you may find it odd, but I do wish that friends and readers who keep on wishing me “More power!” in their e-mail closings would stop doing so. Frankly, I feel a tinge of irony or even sarcasm in that expression—even if I know it’s not meant to be that way. It’s just that whenever people wish me “More power!” 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 “More power!” 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 “More powers!” (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 “More power!” 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 Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary, the word “power” still means “possession of control, authority, or influence over others.” So why would anyone even think of wishing someone to have more power than what he or she already has? For purely selfish reasons, wouldn’t it be more natural for people to wish more power for themselves—even if they already have lots of it? What’s the point of unnaturally wishing other people to have more of it?

I actually suspect that this propensity for “More power!” closings is uniquely Filipino. I’ve researched the expression with Google and I didn’t 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 model—perhaps a high-profile public figure or some forceful English professor—must 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 “More power!” is not only appropriate but also chic and classy?

On the contrary, though, I think “More power!” belongs to the same league as the truncated expression “God bless!” This isn’t a solely Filipino expression, of course, but I can’t help but wonder: Why can’t people say “God bless you!” in full? Using the objectless “God bless!” seems to me a sign that people find saying the full expression embarrassing. And I won’t buy the explanation that people probably only want to make that expression parallel to the expression “Goodbye!” That one has its object built into it—for it’s actually the universally accepted shorthand for “God be with you!”

So then, to my friends and readers, spare me from any more “More powers!” when felicitating me. Wish me “All the best!” or to “Have a nice day!” Send me your “Best wishes!” or “Cheers!” or your “Warmest personal regards!” Wish me to “Be safe, be healthy, be happy!” if you really mean it. But please, don’t wish me “More Power!” ever again. If you continue to do so, your wish might be granted every time and I just might acquire too much power. You won’t 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 “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, February 28, 2009  © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2019, 12:43:14 AM by Joe Carillo »