I must apologise to those of you who read my post, Meet the Crew last week; I’m sorry I had a menopausal mental blip and put Emerson instead of Whitman as the author of ‘Song of Myself’ in the header quote. A dear friend pointed it out in an email. On a wordlover’s blog, it’s not just embarrassing but mortifying.
It happens every week now…the names Dawn and Gail, Fiona and Heather; in December it was kitchen and Christmas; on Friday it was Musketeers and Mohicans. Somewhere in my brain, they become lexically interlinked and sometimes, frighteningly – for a linguist – interchangeable.
I wonder if word brain cells can get used up? Over the years, I’ve been fluent – lived – in several languages not my own and studied four others for school and university level exams; so many words for every thought, every stick of furniture, every change of the wind, emotion and morsel of food; so many songs, emotions and colours… the names of hundreds of students over the years. Songs learned by heart, poems and extracts for exams, coaching Proficiencies and Masteries, conjugations, declensions, plants and spices, a word-obsessed life that thrives on details and will choose squirm over wriggle for an embarrassed adult on a sofa…. The cracks are showing now, and words – whole memories – are slipping through, getting stuck in my brain’s filing cabinets, fouled up between brain and fingers, thought and voice. Cruel, really, that plummeting hormones can cause such crevasses, such crises and earthquakes of self.
Or maybe it’s hearing my ninety year old dad telling me the same stories over and over and over again, every day, every phone call, every visit, watching him fade like a photograph, pixel by pixel as he clings on to his dignity, his humour, his independence and sense of self… maybe it’s seeing his multitudes thin out, pack up and wander slowly home that’s frightening me more than Whitman and Emerson, my crippling perfectionism and my bouts of word loss.
Who would we be without the words that frame our thoughts? It doesn’t bear thinking about.