This morning I was a tad shocked when not one but two words eluded me. First I failed to retrieve eclipse, then half an hour later, arnica escaped my tongue. Total eclipse of the brain! Quick, fetch the arnica!
Then common sense prevailed. OK, these are not unusual words … but on the other hand, I rarely use them.
I was reading the newspaper when it struck me that over 77 years I’ve never stopped learning new words (and nor have you, at whatever age). Deployment, I read, ordnance: not words I learned at my father’s knee, I assure you. Superfoods, mitochondria, microbeads, urban runoff, nutrient pollution. Bitcoin, geopolitical, cryptocurrency, alpha-numeric codes… The newspaper every day is peppered with words that did not exist in 1940, words that we now use without a second thought.
New words: space invaders that keep us young
By lunch time I’d used dozens of neologisms and technical terms without blinking. The sort of words we learn when they become necessary or common. I had done a kettlebell superset workout and 100 incline push ups, among other tortures. I’d listened to a podcast with my decaff flat white. I’d enquired about a markdown app for my iPad Pro that sync nicely with the WordPress blogging platform, and toyed with some source code. I had directed a body corp member to section 4 of the Unit Titles Act.
You too are a word-learning machine
Take heart! Unless you live solo in a tech-free ice cave, you cannot help but learn new words every day. “I can’t stand that word blog,” one of my friends said the other day — OK, but you just used it, I thought.
Next time you forget a word, don’t catastrophize. It’s not automatically a sign of anomic aphasia or even mild cognitive impairment, let alone Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s more likely just a sign that your glorious brain is chock-a-block full of words, and some old friends are being pushed to the back of the closet by these brash (but interesting) newcomers.
PS Writing others into life
Several readers have told me that this post was hugely reassuring to them. It reframes a fear into pride. I’m glad if by writing today, I can help others to perceive that their verbal is very much alive.