The missing words

I do remember reading somewhere that your word recall starts dropping after 30. To be honest, I don’t remember having a great recall or vocabulary before 30, either. So it can be pretentious to assume that my word recall used to be great and I now suffer badly, having crossed the 30 mark some years ago. (I actually typed ‘facetious’ for ‘pretentious’, looked it up, found it inaccurate and corrected it.)

But then, I do know that I am slipping, especially when I find it difficult to fill the words even when talking. Sometimes, basic ones. So my English is slightly slurred, as I slow it down, picking my words with that extra bit of effort. There are times when it flows, but I do need to figure out the changes in each circumstance. Maybe a simple thing of trying to respond vs trying to make conversation. But it can get pretty embarrassing when you pick a wrong word in a classic case of Malapropism. My Kannada just stutters along, a parallel track following right behind, picking up after the main one, noting and wincing at all the errors, sometimes supplying the errata for important ones.

There are more reasons than basic trouble communicating that one needs to be worried about the inability to find the right words soon enough. Studies do link the onset of dementia to how good/bad your word recall is in your 30s. (OK, I don’t have a link, but I did read it somewhere and didn’t think at that point that I’ll be writing a blog post.)

Even writing is now about filling up a sentence, and then checking out different words if they’re what was intended, and not something that sounds like something that should be there – a Malapropism. Surprisingly I didn’t have a hard time finding Malapropism. But I used to use malapropism instead of Spoonerism at times. A lot of googling helped. So yeah, I’ve trodden the path of malapropism when using that word itself.

And to add to it, there’s also the problem of grammar, where you get into knots you struggle to extricate yourself from. For e.g., above – “checking out different words if they’re what was intended”. Ah! Should that we “what were intended” instead? “what was intended” seems like a phrase by itself so it seems to fit directly. But that is again, my interpretation, I could be wrong! “what were intended” doesn’t sound so right anyway. As always, reading it helps. But you get my point.

This means that every post seems increasingly difficult. Sometimes, when the content is easy, like a trip, life is easier. There is less need to improvise to get a point across. The idea is only to get as many events as possible into words. Trouble is mainly when you’re trying to put your thoughts into words. Sometimes the effort of finding the right words is so straining, that you just leave out what you wanted to really say, unsaid.

But then, I wonder, how much of this is a product of having to deal with too many distractions. Like that Twitter feed that won’t read itself. Or that new email (mostly spam), that won’t delete itself. I did write about it once, and it is pretty tempting to blame it again. And I am going to give in to the temptation and do just that. Blame social media.

I check my battery usage on my phone and the top users are – Twitter(41%), Whatsapp(11%), email(8%) and Instagram(6%). I deleted the FB app a long time back. Pretty much, my phone usage is to open the screen, go to Twitter, and refresh the feed. And pinging people on whatsapp or responding to them. And checking mail and the Instagram feed. (Oh, and btw, if you’re on Instagram, pliss to follow me, and I’ll follow right back: I do put up pics often too.)

This also means, that the goal is pretty clear to me – deaddict myself from Twitter/Whatsapp also and see how things go. There could be various means to do this. Quite a few I’ve thought of and read about from different sources who talk about it:

  1. Do not go to sleep with the smartphone at your bedside. So hard!
  2. Set specific timings to check social media sites. Or delete those apps from your phone and use the computer for it. So not going to happen. How does one share pics?
  3. Phone not allowed inside the bedroom. This sounds nice. Except I don’t know where I can leave it.
  4. Keep the phone away when reading, etc. Tried it. Works! Tried it when blogging, but the browser has other tabs.

If there’s anything else you’ve tried that has worked, please do let me know! I really want to use my smartphone less. Especially when you realise that while having a conversation, a real one that is, your mind is still getting back to the phone. Selling it and switching back to a normal phone isn’t an option. At least, not one I want to consider, yet.

To be honest, I had no idea I could blame it on Twitter etc, but as the words started flowing, I did realise how much I was getting distracted and moving away. It does add up to not being able to concentrate on one thing properly and the decreasing propensity to dig deep for the required words. The only way I’ll be able to work myself through this is by writing, so more efforts will be made in that direction. Or maybe, can take a pen and paper, and put the words there. My fingers just protested though!


3 thoughts on “The missing words

  1. Dementia? LOL. You are losing your word memory since the quality of literature we feed our mind on a daily basis is going downhill. For example, see the quality of news articles we read daily. Garbage in, garbage out.

    I think everyone, including me, is trying to deaddict themselves from checking these social services. It is hard 🙂

  2. Oh dear god! I love giving advice so here goes.

    I have excellent memory. I used to joke/ say that when I start forgetting, I will start getting worried. And, yes, I have begun forgetting. My language dumbed down (when I began teaching I had to deliberately use simpler words, which affected my language skills) and I would speed read articles often misreading words. I have poor concentration because of which I don’t read, instead of saying I don’t read because I have no time. I started doing a few things to better my mind:

    a. Switch off GPRS on your phone. I feel like aliens are controlling my brain if the internet on my phone is on, so i just put it off. It really helps.
    b. Read more- not simple language books, slightly difficult ones. If the language is dumbed down, it won’t help.
    c. Learn a new skill. It helps keep the brain active. A new language is best. For me at the moment it is swimming. Yoga also helps as you need to keep track of your poses.
    d.Before you sleep think of 3 things that made your day or recapitulate the whole day. It has immense benefits. (research based)
    e. Check your email at designated times like 9 am,12 noon, 3 pm and 6 pm. Everytime you break the rule, make a tally mark on a board, paper etc. Keeping track of your ‘performance’ will help.

    I do a, b, c and d. Did d for a while but then I stopped. Planning to start making tally marks 🙂

    Hope this helps.

    1. Reading is what keeps me going, one of the few times I can really switch off. But finding less time for that, as I don’t commute by bus anymore.

      But that’s a nice list! Keep trying to do ‘c’, but it is so easy to lose oneself in one’s comfort zone!

      And thanks for taking the time out to write out such a detailed reply! 🙂

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