When I can’t find the words

When I started this blog, I thought long and hard about the tagline for it, finally settling on ‘me and my battle with words.’  I probably should have spent more time thinking long and hard about the title of the blog itself, but I’ll save that for another discussion.  In any event, sometimes words come to me and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they just feel right, and other times I fight with words, trying to bend them to my will.  I have noticed that I don’t work so hard at finding the right words when I speak, though.  I used to worry about this a little more, thinking it was important to remember the right word, especially the name of something – a store, a person, an object.  A long time ago, a friend of mine had a particular boyfriend that had no memory for the names of things, and he just used whatever descriptive words came to mind when he couldn’t locate the name in his brain.  For instance, he called Payless Shoes “cheap shoe.”  We all laughed at the time, but really, I think it’s brilliant.  Just call things what they are – it’s actually more memorable.  In fact, in the middle of writing this post, I could not remember the name of ‘Payless Shoes,’ myself, as I’ve also come to think of it as “cheap shoe.”

I find that when I’m tired, I’m least likely to remember to use the right words.  Luckily, my partner is OK with this, and will generally sort out what I’m saying without too much trouble.  We use one of our cell phones as an alarm clock, so on the way up to bed, I ask if she has her clock.  When she takes too long to run through her bathroom routine at night, I holler to her that she’s late.  If the light is too bright in our bedroom, I’m apt to say I’m being blinded by the sun, especially when she finally finishes flossing her teeth and I’m half asleep having been waiting a long time for her to show up.  I’ve also taken to just leaving out some words that seem unimportant to the whole statement I’m trying to make. Why say an extra word if you don’t have to?  “Can you shut the light?” gets the point across just as well as “Can you shut off the light?”

There are a few Italian restaurants near our house, and they are often among the default places we go when we’re too tired to cook and need a menu a 7-year old will approve of.  We refer to them as “the dark place” and “the light place,” based on the difference in interior lighting.  Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers is a popular small chain with a few locations in the  Bay Area.  Sometimes, “Barney’s” just doesn’t come to me, though, so I’ll call it “Frank’s burger,” or “Jack’s burger.”  All I really need is anyone’s name in front of “burger” and she knows what I mean.

I had to look up the name of a tiny tree we have planted in a garden in front of our house, because I call it the Harry Potter Tree.  It’s really named the Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick tree.  I love it because it’s so twisty.  I’d take a picture of ours to show you, but it’s dark outside right now, so this stock photo will have to do.  There are many more where these came from, but I am getting to be pretty tired, so they escape me at the moment.  What’s your shorthand?  Do you search for the right words or just use what comes most quickly?

4 thoughts on “When I can’t find the words

  1. my early morning writing pattern requires a cup of coffee made half asleep, by the time i get to my writing space i am ready. I keep all programs closed and go to work. I keep my outlined close and only resort to editing when the typos become so numerous that the squiggly red lines become incredibly annoying.
    The words come easily, I fix the redundant and inaccurate ones later. If i stop the mechanical maniac comes out and the original word flow stops.
    That’s how i deal with my all too often poor word choice.

  2. I have only had this problem the last 5 years or so. I’ve always prided myself on my memory, and it used to be that the right word was always right there, no searching required. But now I am getting older. I frequently channel Grandma A, and call the kids by the wrong names, the cat’s names, or just go through the whole list of everyone until I find the name I am looking for. I call other people “whatshisname.” I frequently put your niece and nephew through a sort of $10,000 Pyramid game, minus Dick Clark, where I try to find a word describing what I am trying to say. I’m forever using the words “thingy” and “whatchamacallit” and making hand motions. It used to be embarassing, but now I think of it as part of my charm.

  3. Great post that describes what we all do – use our own patois. In my experience, when two people are close they develop their own short language and they rarely misunderstand each other. I think one of the issues today is word overload too many words, too much information and too much to remember. It’s not surprising that we sometimes forget or default to our own ‘patois’.

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you.

  4. Pingback: Man, I’ve got to get better at remembering birthdays! « east.bay.writer

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