Disappearing Words

— 4 minute read

Reading and language have been part of my life since as far back as I can remember—even with the difficulty of remembering anything about childhood, it always feels like there are gaps. Anyways.

We had an Accelerated Reading program in elementary school. Basically, you read books that had been assigned point values on reading level—the more points for more advanced books—and then take comprehension tests on its content.

I remember being bored of my grade's reading level and wanted to try to get the most points, grabbing the yellow tagged books from the library—anything around 10th grade and above. Throughout elementary school, I was picking up Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Lois Lowry, Jonathan Swift, Madeleine L'Engle, Jules Verne, K.A. Applegate, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

I didn't understand everything I read—I still regularly find myself revisiting these authors, reading as now- me, helping me also remember past- me's—but the fun came from the challenge of trying to understand what was going on, what the words were, while get lost in the tales of others. That...and competing with grade-mates for the most points.

The discrepancies of thought to speech permalink

I've since gone from collecting words—after learning meanings, nuances, possibilities, ambiguities—to using them: primarily in speaking and writing. Despite all this, words disappear.




And these aren't words that I'm trying to sound smart saying. I was giving a presentation to Team Leads at work and—after knocking the same plant over two times—the word team disappeared.

I've been on sports teams, product teams, development teams, management teams, science teams, writing teams, all sorts of teams. But the word wouldn't show itself.

I went through all the various things, "You know, the thing. When you have a group of people that work on something, you all are managing them, made up of different..."

  • Q: "...;team?"
  • A: "YES! TEAM!"

How words disappear permalink

This happens so often, I've grown to have multiple categories and descriptions of the ways words disappear, or at least, how they feel when they do.

  • ...like watching a video of a sonic boom
    This is when the thoughts and words don't match. I'm speaking or trying to wait to speak, then my thoughts go farther than my words, and all of a sudden: they're gone. The words took off, the sound catching up, the video—me—seeing nothing there.

  • ...like catching a fly with your hands
    This is when, while talking and working towards a point, the point starts moving all over the place. The context needed to get to the point buzzes around, just out of reach. You can't stop talking because then you'll lose sight of the fly.

  • ...like a will'o'wisp
    It skirts by, quickly moving, almost missing the sight of it. But it's bright, it's glowing, and I know it'd be a magical moment to catch. During the chase, I get lost in the woods: off path and disappointed at the missed language.

  • ...like people's worst nightmare
    For some, one of the worst things is studying hard for a test and when you show up: you know nothing. This happens after—surprise—waiting, and hearing my name. Even though I expected it, was listening and paying attention, my name shocks me into wordlessness.

Embracing the experience permalink

This has happened throughout my life. For a long time they were frustratingly perplexing. I knew I knew them; they just wouldn't come out.

At some point, it took too much energy searching for understanding. I started embracing it, accepting it as part of myself, and communicating thusly.

With some people, it's become a fun thing to try and remember the word along with me, an off the cuff game of ad-lib where there is a correct answer...but I don't even know it.

C'est ma vie permalink