What a fabulous language we have.

Our vocabulary bank is simply engorged with eloquent words for every scenario.  The problem I have is finding the right one- my thesaurus is my drug of choice, always right next to my left elbow- I get twitchy if it’s not within touching distance.  I think of a word then absolutely have to look it up to see if I can find something more, well, interesting to use in its place.  It’s an obsession, exacerbated by 10 years spent working in PR where the king of sins is to use any kind of cliche, or hackneyed words and phrases that every other comms jockey rolls out.

Often when I’m writing for others I leave gaps in the text with explanatory notes in brackets so I can come back to it when inspiration comes a calling, things like (word that means dynamic but ABSOLUTELY IS NOT DYNAMIC!).  Working this way enables me to keep the pace of a piece going without forgetting what I was trying to say, because I can simply never remember the word I need when i need it.  This makes me almost incapable of intelligent conversation: the words just don’t come fast enough and I’m queen of the “I wish I’d said that”.

I was reminded of the whole “Oh hell, what’s that word again?” problem today in a Twitter conversation (Twitteration?) with @vwallop over at It’s a small world after all. The conversation went something like this*:-

@vwallop What’s a collective word for the objects on your mantelpiece??

@peabee72 (me) Crap

@vwallop I’m looking for a proper word…

@peabee72 Ah, tough one – looks like there’s an opening there for a new one…

@vwallop (after a more intelligent response) ORNAMENTS!

Well of course it was ornaments, although I have to admit I was trying to think of something altogether more obscure, but the point was that @vwallop knew the word she needed, it just wouldn’t come.

Discovering that Tip of the Tongue syndrome was a real phenomenon and not just something my nana said was one of those few facts that stuck with me from my psychology degree.  Also known as Presque Vu, meaning ‘almost seen’, it’s a memory problem caused by blockages or too much traffic in a particular area of the brain.

Most of us will suffer TOT once a week and the really great news is that it becomes more frequent with age.  My average is more like once a day which worries me in terms of its implications for the longevity of my memory –  Anyone seen The Notebook?  Such a beautiful film and completely one to drown in with a super-sized glass of red and an embarassingly huge box of maltesers.  I love it but I’m convinced that I’m going to end up like the main character.  Maybe that’s why I write?  In the hope that some permanent record will be retained when I’m mumbling incoherently into my teacup.

In the meantime I plan to carry around a jotter and note down fantastic words that I want to remember, as and when they come to me. In fact I might start a blog purely about words I love and their meanings and add to it whenever one pops up, here’s my first:

#1 Serendipitious – (love that word) The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

Feel free to add your own…..


*Thanks to Victoria for letting me publish these excerpts x

Oh hell, what’s that word again?
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4 thoughts on “Oh hell, what’s that word again?

  • January 25, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, now I’m depressed, it’s only going to get worse? This is the beginning of the end? Hey ho. Great post though!
    PS my twitter username is @vwallop

  • January 25, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I’m obviously a lost cause! All amended now – thanks for the pickup. And don’t be depressed – you’re completely normal, once a week is nothing to worry about!

    Thanks, Px

  • January 26, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I love my thesaurus too, very helpful tool when you have a memory like a sieve.

    CJ xx

  • January 26, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I want one of those really huge ones you get in libraries- the kind that make a walloping ‘thud’ every time you open them!


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