Losing or Re-adjusting My Vocabulary?

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At a recent checkup, I was referred to a neurologist for what we hope/assume are benign migraines. My Doctor asked me a couple of preliminary questions, had I noticed anything other than the spots? I gave the response that I give these days, whenever words fail me, “Well I don’t have as many words in my vocabulary as I used to and I forget things more often, but I put that down to motherhood and exhaustion.”

Despite the glib tone, it’s something I think about quite often. For a long time I was an intellectual snob, I believed that moving to America/Maine had dumbed me down. I wrote a 15,000 word feminist critique of masculine African American narratives in 2003, then went straight from turning that in to being a housewife in Maine. I felt that this must have some consequence. I was being forced into fewer syllables and more accessible turns of phrase.

I was discussing my benign migraines with my husband the other day, he suggested that perhaps it is not the move across the globe that affected my brain cells but the growing time span between who I am now and who I was in college. From 1999-2003 I was in a library every day, I read when I wanted to, when I needed to and when I was instructed to. I absorbed everything I could possibly absorb and then some. That isn’t my daily life anymore. I still read avidly, but it does not consume me. I still take every opportunity I can to learn something new, but those chances do not pop up every day. You are more likely to find me now, having a cup of coffee with a friend chatting about life, than sharing a bottle of wine and discussing the penal system in the soviet union and how it might relate to Jean Toomer’s Cane. Yes that happened.

To everything there is a season, for right now, I believe my season is defined more by words such as potty, please, cheerio and sleep, than it is by hyperbole, post-modernism or the writings of Volosinov. That’s fine by me, life is pretty great. I think the world we live in shapes who we are and how we express ourselves. I am the person I am today because of the college I attended, the man I married, the move I made and the children I have. Do I still miss my vocabulary? Sometimes, but I won’t worry too much about it right now, it’s filed away for future use and for GeekMom posts!

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8 thoughts on “Losing or Re-adjusting My Vocabulary?

  1. My kids were raised by a mum who reads all the time and chats about oddities like neuroscience, Supreme Court decisions, and gut bacteria. They have incredible vocabularies and wide-ranging interests. Their friends started calling them “professor” before their ages hit double digits and now, as teens and young adults, they are fascinating people who tell me (in depth often beyond my comprehension) what they’re reading and sometimes have to define the words they use.

  2. STORY OF MY LIFE. I just wrote about the same thing myself last week (http://rockinlibrarian.livejournal.com/227634.html)! Not so much vocabulary– I still have an odd vocabulary, and I’ve NEVER had a vocabulary that comes out of my MOUTH properly– but general brain rot, yes. I am hoping it is just a symptom of having young children and their brain-cell-deadening properties, and it will all go away in a few years. Right? It has to, right?

      1. So the neurologist wasn’t concerned about that or you just have no results yet? Since having my son, I have the same issues, but now that he is 7 I have trouble convincing myself that it is from lack of sleep any longer. I go from laughing at myself, to thinking I have a brain tumor, to worrying that I am a hypochondriac … then I laugh at myself again.

    1. I reassure myself that that is the case every day. And make sure to read at least one adult and non-Seussian thing every week.

  3. I had the same experience after both of my kids were born. I had trouble thinking of words, used the wrong words, etc. I chalked mine up to exhaustion and it resolved itself when I started getting more sleep. I am still terrible with names though 🙂

  4. Amen. I’m ten years farther down the motherhood journey road than you are. Some of the vocab comes back with time and sleep, but not all. However, you will find yourself learning new things that partially fill the void left by the things you once knew but can no longer recall.

  5. I feel your pain — while I’ve never been super gifted in vocabulary (my husband is the one who got like 8 billion on his verbal SATs, not me), I still felt the adult words being forced out of my brain to make room for the simpler words that my sons would understand.

    I had tons of “Mommy Memory” moments myself from 2002-2009 or so. Once the youngest started school, it magically reappeared!

    However, my husband and I certainly made it a point to NEVER compromise the English language when talking around our sons, no matter how young they were. We could simplify the words, sure, but we didn’t mess with tenses or incomplete sentences. Hopefully that kept us from going insane just a little?

    It’s been fun watching especially my oldest come home from school with more and more elaborate vocabulary words.

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