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Keywords:

  • proverb;
  • home;
  • Vietnam;
  • folklore;
  • speech;
  • sensory

Whilst social life is discursively constituted, produced and reproduced through situated acts of speaking, this paper contends that geographers have failed to devote sustained attention to speech as a practice that provokes meanings in, and of, different spaces. Despite calls to human geographers 20 years ago by Yi-Fu Tuan to take speech seriously the paper demonstrates how geographers could benefit from greater engagement in practice; what disposes people to speak in the way they do, how and when they do, and how lived experiences and inherited knowledges are interwoven into these active moments. Interrogating spatial ontologies of speech revealed through research conducted in contemporary Vietnam, the paper reveals the repeated utterances of the proverb ‘men build the house, women build the home’ and the differentiated interpretations and etiological tales that arose in relation. The findings on normative and then transgressive usages and significations of these utterances shows how a greater sensory holism could, in part, be achieved by bringing the discipline into more committed conversation with geographies of speech both in and between the Global South and Global North. The paper signals a much broader agenda in geographical research that takes fuller heed of the spatial imaginings and meanings embedded in, and uttered through, oral cultures, folklore and speech.