Last night, I played host to my local book club. I cleaned house, added a few Christmas touches and put out some wine and nibblies for the ladies. We meet once a month to discuss a book and last night’s selection inspired an interesting discussion. The book in question was “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova and the topic of the novel is early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Lethologica: The inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word¹
One of the first signs that Alice, the main protagonist, recognizes as being not quite right happens when she is giving a speech. She is a Professor of Linguistics and thrives on public speaking, which she does often. On this day though, she blanks out on a word, as she is running through her frequently-orated speech. Try as she might, the word is lost to her. It is only hours later that the mystery word inadvertently pops back into her brain.
Alice’s lapse is one of the first signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s, but I am only too familiar with the concept of losing a word that should be on the tip of my tongue. I am pretty sure that I won’t be on the Dementia ward tomorrow, but how many of us have moments of temporary amnesia that leave us struggling trying to find that word.
As a writer, this is not a good state to be in. After being up late, I find that I have a harder time tracking down that perfect word that I know is out there. If I have imbibed in a glass too many of “inspiration”, my muse the following day is like sludge. If the moon is waxing, my period is imminent, or some jerk slammed on his horn at me on the way home, the chances are good that I might be a little more distracted and at a loss to be as succinct as I would like to be.
I am sure we have all been there.
Just as Alice was terrified in the beginning about losing her language, and more importantly, her mind, I too have had my moments when I am concerned with my moments of lethologica. Heck, I just learned that word today, but I am sure it will be gone in a blink too. That and all the names of the new people whom I meet, whose names go in one ear and out the other. Is it because there are too many words already stuffed inside my brain, so nothing else will stick or just laziness in my memory receptors? What line do you draw where it is simple forgetfulness or a larger issue that needs addressing?
Now where was I going with this exactly? Hmm…
I think I need to do a few more crosswords or maybe find a new partner to challenge at Scrabble. Care to play?