Its been a while since I posted anything here, although I have been writing—a lot. More on that in another post. In the meantime, to get back into the swing of blogging (the easy way), I’m posting a rerun from my Suddenly Sixties blog that you may still relate to. In fact, since more than six years have passed, it may be even more relatable. Don’t forget to read UPDATE at the end. Or just scroll down to UPDATE if you can’t bear reruns.
Desperately Seeking Words (originally published December 30, 2010)
My first indication that I was losing my vocabulary came decades ago at work—I was middle-aged then—and I was telling our then-Graphics department about something I wanted printed on… I knew it began with a “p,” but all I could come up with was “partridge.” I didn’t say it out loud because (thank goodness) I realized it was not the right word. Eventually, probably only two minutes but it seemed longer, I sputtered “Parchment!” It scared me a little. I wasn’t even in menopause yet.
It’s not easy to be a writer who can’t always remember words. An online thesaurus is my pal, but I don’t use it for the maligned practice of coming up with fancier words to say simple things. I go to this trusty tool to find the word that I’m sure is in my head…someplace. I’ll be typing merrily along and suddenly I’m stumped. Let’s say I want to say something like mutilate, but I know that’s not the word I want. I’m confident there’s a word that’s a better fit—one that I use all the time. I just can’t bring it to the frontal lobes. So, assuming I can come up with a word that’s close in meaning, the thesaurus gives me a fighting chance. I may even know what letter it starts with—in this case, I’m sure the word starts with an “m.” But that’s as far as I can get, until the thesaurus offers up maim. Ahhh. That’s it!
Not being able to retrieve words can take its toll on the marital relationship too. When I want to say something to my husband, I use the handiest words available. Unfortunately, he can’t read my mind (although after all this time he should be able to). So a typical conversation goes something like this:
Me: Can you get me the thing?
Me: You know, the thing, the round thing.
Me: The thing with holes…to catch pasta. The…strainer? Sieve?
Him: You mean the colander?
When I’m groping for a word that’s part of a request, he stares at me, a deer definitely caught in the headlights. He is not only confused but, being a helpful sort, he’s also frustrated. Sometimes his “What?” seems to be getting testier, not unlike the GPS lady when she needs to say “Recalculating,” for the fifth time.
While I’m desperately grasping at words, he may smile smugly. But I know we’ll have this kind of conversation in reverse later this evening. After all, he’s in his g(olden) years too!
UPDATE: February 2017. My husband and I are now equal as to not remembering the name of something or someone. Thank goodness for Google. But sometimes you can’t remember enough about the thing you’re trying to remember to type in the right words for the Google search. You have to laugh at this dilemma, which is far better than crying.
The other day, I may have found a temporary cure for this word seeking problem. The downside is that you have to hurt yourself. Here’s what happened: My husband, my resident chef, cooked a dinner that included chicken and capers. When I tasted it and praised it highly, he said, “It’s like the dish I usually make, Chicken _______.” He was stumped. He could not remember the second word to that phrase. I knew what he meant, but when I tried to name the dish, I was stumped too.
“Scallopini? No that’s not right. Vesuvio? Nope.” We thought hard for a couple of minutes and decided to move on.
About an hour later, I was getting something from our pantry cabinet and, being uncoordinated, I started to close the cabinet door while my head and upper body were still peering inside. The result was a blow to my head that stunned me for a second. (I’m fine. No concussion, just a little bruise next to my right eye.) I stood upright and calmed down bit, then shouted out, “Chicken Picatta!” I ran upstairs to my husband exclaiming, “I just bumped my head on the cabinet door badly, but I remembered chicken picatta!” He wasn’t sure how to react.