The other evening, five of us were having a hilarious conversation over pizza. All in our 70s or 80s. We were having no trouble retrieving words, indeed, we were unstoppable. Then someone used the word macerate, someone else asked what it meant, we agreed on the meaning and all was well.
Then I said something that caused our happy talk to stop dead.
“But macerate is not the most common word for soaking a food in a liquid before cooking,” says Madam Smarty-pants. “There’s another word. You know it, I know it. Also begins with an M. Also has three syllables I think…”
Silence. Long silence. Very long silence. Disbelief. Discreet panic attacks. Horror. Silence.
We all knew the word. We had all used it many times. But none of us could retrieve it.
Finally, after what felt like seven hours, one of us struck gold, retrieving the elusive word from the murky depths of his mind.
The next day I recounted this funny little episode to a young friend (in her sixties). She could not remember the word either. To mitigate (look! 3-syllables, begins with M!) the shock I said,
“To be fair, I don’t think any of us has used that work since the 80s.”
“I marinated something yesterday,” she said.
Now I’m thinking I don’t see the word “marinate” in modern recipes. I’m thinking they’re more likely to say, “soak the [ingredients] in the [liquid] for 2 hours” or “pour the [liquid] over the [ingredients] and refrigerate” or “let the mixture stand overnight.”
Is that true, though? I have no idea. But rest assured, if you have trouble retrieving words, words you know perfectly well, you are not alone. You just need to masticate and macerate your thoughts a little longer, and the words you seek will come to you.