Words, Words, Words
Lecture Talk L6

Words, Words, Words

Report by Lucinda (L6) -

On Friday 17 November, the Lower Sixth listened to a brilliant lecture by the captivating Head of Drama at Queen Anne’s school, titled ‘Words, Words, Words.’ Mr Punter unravelled the layers and meanings of words and the importance of facial expressions and body language. The lecture opened with the soliloquy ‘To be or not to be,’ written by William Shakespeare in the tragedy Hamlet, we explored its timeless nature and the power of short words.

The lecture started by challenging the conventional notion of words being simple sounds and letters morphed together. Mr Punter, a self-professed collector of words, unravelled the layers of language, going beyond the mere sounds and letters. He argued that words can be shown through facial expressions. The human face is like a canvas upon which emotions and thoughts are painted. If we understand words in this way, we can interpret that words are not limited to their verbal or written form. Yet, words can be empowered by slight eye movements, raising or furrowing an eyebrow or even the subtlety of a smile. We learned that ‘80% of communication is non-verbal’ and almost ‘95% of the time our eyes twitch’ to express our thoughts and emotions. Mr Punter showed us an example of this unspoken language by using his own facial expressions and a volunteer from the audience. He silently walked towards her and conveyed his anger without speaking, he did this by clenching his fists and narrowing his eyes on her.

Mr Punter argued that short words are more powerful than longer words. Short words possess a power to detonate and create tension in the air. It can linger in the minds of the audience as it creates an immediate impression. We learned that short words such as ‘if’ can create endless possibilities; it introduces an element of uncertainty, prompting individuals to consider the countless possibilities that lie ahead. As the lecture continued, we explored the timeless nature of the soliloquy ‘To be or not to be,’ written by William Shakespeare in the tragedy Hamlet. Mr Punter focused on how the first and last monosyllabic line allows a deep emotional connection with the audience. This soliloquy was brilliantly performed by Mr Punter as he created a palpable atmosphere on the stage:


‘To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep, perchance to dream—

ay, there's the rub’


At the end of the lecture, Mr Punter explored the malleable nature of words. Words can be weakened by how it is said and how often it is used. When repeated excessively or pronounced in a monotonous manner, words can lose their impact. For example, the word ‘good’ has been overused and lost its original power. We learned that overtime some words have either lost or changed its meaning; can acquire new meanings with each passing generation. It can be interpreted that words are not just used as a form of communication but also hold archaic and historical value. To conclude the lecture, Mr Punter explored alternative onomatopoeic words such as ‘yawn’ and ‘drip.’ He creatively made the sound of droplets falling and ultimately taught us the true nature of words. We learned to expand our own collection of words, or even to use one of Mr Punter’s creative words such as ‘boondoggle.’

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