Freud’s observed that “if a slip of tongue that turns what the speaker intended to say into its opposite is made by one of the adversaries in a serious argument, it immediately puts him at a disadvantage, and his opponent seldom wastes any time in exploiting the advantage for his own ends.”
Earlier today, APC chairman, Adams Oshiomole amidst other statements, told the pressmen, “I think that for democracy to flourish, only people who can accept the pain of rigging…sorry, defeat, should participate in an election”
This costly show of “slip of tongue” or what a commenter called “confession time” calls for adequate scrutiny. Apart from the fact that the chairman in question is from the opposition party, APC, and that the election in question is a rerun election which ended in favour of the APC (Action Progressive Congress) which had earlier lost to PDP (People Democratic Party). The error, even after being corrected by the speaker himself, is even more costly due to the fact that it seemed to have confirmed the suspicions that followed the announcement. Peoples Democratic Party earlier rejected the results and described the Thursday election as one of the worst days in the history of Nigeria. In fact, the PDP candidate had also described the election results as “419 results”.
The argument now falls between what error Adams Oshiomole actually made: a slip of tongue, or an ‘intended slip of tongue’? Two questions crop up under the first motion: “was it a slip of tongue that actually reflect what happened during the election or not?” An intended slip of tongue is highly implausible and this is why we shall be looking at the issue right from the first motion in the psycholinguistics perspective.
Slips of tongue are common phenomenon around us and history is replete with more of these situations. This is a bit similar to a headline (Cameron Mocked After Describing Election as ‘Career-Defining’) of The Guardian on May 1, 2015 which was a report about what happened to a famous native speaker of English and former British Prime Minister, David Cameroon when he accidentally described the 7 May election as ‘career-defining’ instead of the intended ‘country-defining”. Richard Nordguist noted that David Cameroon’s mistake was immediately jumped on by his opponents as unintentionally revealing that he was more concerned about his own job prospects than the future of the UK. Senator Ted Kennedy said in 1991: “Our national interest ought to be be to encourage the breast…the best and the brightest” and also Former President George H. W. Bush’s “We’ve had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We’ve had some sex…uh… setbacks.”
In language structure, we learnt the concept of langue and parole on one hand, then grammaticality and acceptability on the other, which both owe to the fact that a speaker may know the correct forms of speech in their minds and still go on to produce the wrong forms due to external factors relating to phobia, environment, idiosyncrasies and lots more. Is there a slip of tongue that can never be intentional? When do we judge that a particular form of speech is a slip of tongue or not? Is there a finding that says: “slips of tongue also happen when the real intent is different from the intended output?”
The first party which claim that Adams Oshiomole mistakenly confessed are seemingly going along with Freudian slip, which is also known as parapraxis. This was named after Sigmund Freud’s conclusion in his The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) and An Autobiographical Study (1925) where he inferred that slips of tongue were usually sexual in nature, and credited the surfacing of deeply repressed desires from a person’s subconscious for the often embarrassing blunders. It is a slip of the tongue that seems to inadvertently reveal an unconscious thought or attitude. This finding also coincides with some age long Yoruba proverbs like Oun tí ń be lára ọlọ́tí náà ni ọtí ń paá mọ́ (The drunkard gets drunk upon what he already has in his body (i.e in relation to thoughts) and Àáyá fẹ́ igi gùn, o ní kùnmọ̀ àna oun há (Àáyá (an animal, already) desires to climb the tree, (but it said) its in-law’s cane is hanging (on the tree) i.e making that an excuse.)
From another point of view, researchers at UC Davis who tested and experimented the Freudian theory revealed that slips of the tongue occur most frequently when individuals are under stress or speaking quickly. Fast speech may be the cause as evident in the video that he did not keep control his speech. Contemporary researches Even though contemporary research has proven that the theory has its flaws, seemingly-revealing Freudian slip as it is in the case of Adams Oshiomole still generate controversy.
Hassan Baaqi is a graduate of linguistics who finds interest in discussing language in relation to real life situations. More articles of his can be found at www.flyingcolours.ng
- Tori B., Freudian Slips: The Psychology Behind Slips of The Tongue June 06, 2018 thoughtco.com/what-is-a-freudian-slip
- Zaria G., What Freudian Slips Really Reveal About Your Mind July 07, 2016 www.bbc.com/future/story/20150706/