What’s that word?


Last night I was tip-tapping away at the keyboard, writing up both the next section of Hatrack, and a new short that is intended to be SF Horror, and don’t ask me how I was doing both simultaneously, because I wasn’t. Anyway, I’m not sure the SF story will be horror, because I have written horror by accident, and once before tried to write it on purpose (the Halloween story, Sugar Skull) and it seems I can pull it off on accident but not on purpose. I shall try, as it’s not going to be gore, but doubt and uncertainty and a haunting sense of helplessness. 

Anyway. This wasn’t supposed to be about genre constructs (although thank you, Dorothy, for pointing me in the right direction). This was supposed to be about the missing word. I do this fairly often, and having talked to friends, it seems I’m not alone. There will be a word lurking in the periphery of my brain. I know it’s there. I can sort of see the shape of it. But when I reach for it, it’s gone. Leaving only a mischievous sort of giggle sensation in it’s place. It’s annoying. Fortunately, most of the time I can ask the First Reader for the word, and talk around the edges of it, well enough for him to fill in the blank. If I can’t ask for help, I’ll put the closest word I can think of in brackets, and come back to it later. Most of the time I’ll come up with it then. 

He and I were talking about this phenomenon last night, and agreed it’s somewhat related to the name thing. I’ll call for my youngest child in some combination of three or four names, only getting to his at the end. It’s a high emotion distracted brain thing. I know that when I am writing I may look calm, but the mind is a turbulent froth of story and editoral commentary beneath the surface. Losing a word can knock me right out of the story if I let it, so I try not to overthink it, just bracket and move on. 

You can always catch it later. Or your editor will, and send you a note of ‘hey, why are there brackets here?’ which is why it is so reassuring to have more eyeballs than just mine on my work before it does go public. Except Hatrack, which is going public first, and will see editors later. Ah, well. 

The word, by the way, was talisman. I was mentally seeing ‘sacred [object]’ and relic was not the word. Talisman was, or close enough my brain accepted it. 

And now, off to the labs. 


12 thoughts on “What’s that word?

  1. I used to think it was hysterically funny when my mother mixed up our names. Now that I’m doing it I wish I could apologize to her.

  2. I’m going to point my wife at this post; she is having a similar issue and getting either frustrated, or fearful she’s developing dementia.

    1. Oh no, this is quite common and even normal. Aphasia can be a sign of other things, yes, but it’s not a serious thing by itself. Just your brain having a little hiccup. I’ve been having this since I was in my late teens at least. Stress levels affect it, I have noticed.

  3. Grandma used to call all of the grand-kids names, in chronological order, as she tried to remember which name went with which kid. (as I was the youngest, it took awhile to get to me.)

  4. At least Mom had only two names to Shout Out.

    Of course, it would be hard (I think) to confuse my Sister with me (or visa versa). 😀

  5. Oh yeah, I lose words, or people’s names, all the time. I can usually get around to figuring it out through some roundabout way. But, it’s really annoying.

  6. My siblings and I all grew up thinking we had three names – I was either Aimee, AimeeJoalle, or SusanKathleenAimeeAllieChipper. Fortunately, by the time my younger brothers graduated to more ‘grown up’ names, my mother had learned to tell us apart.

    Since I only have the one child at home, my poor Dragonette is occasionally referred to by the cat’s name (sometimes Augie, but usually Piddlepots). She doesn’t hold it against me.


  7. Your comment about remembering the names in order, but not knowing the name for the one in front of you reminded me of an interesting memory problem for children. After they learn the alphabet, it is interesting to ask them what the next letter after say “m” is. Almost invariably they will have to sing the song from the start to answer. (And once they have the full pairwise order, you can then teach them to say the alphabet backwards.)

    There are quite a number of interesting problems with memory and recall. And despite years of attention, there are still lots of unanswered questions.

  8. I get called my older sister’s name a lot by my mother, but even more amusing was the time the oldest sister was calling her daughter by our youngest sister’s name, and getting increasingly frustrated that her daughter was “ignoring” her. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, the youngest sister was saying, “What? What??”

Comments are closed.