Monday, March 27, 2006

Mmm...word salad.

Have you ever had that moment when your native tongue suddenly becomes alien to you? Like when you say your name over and over and at some point, quite suddenly, it just becomes a sound (please don’t ask me why you would say your name over and over again, I don’t really know). Or when you say a word and realize that the sound of it, the actual phonetics of it, make no sense at all. The word still means cheese but the sound…it’s just noise. I think that there is an actual mental illness that causes this but you know…I just have a mild case. I’m not dangerous or anything.

Actually in looking this up I find a few interesting types of linguistic-type mental problems. Both have excellent names: word salad and echolalia, you may remember these from psych 101. But that’s not really the point.

So, I was reading this article about free speech by Tom Stoppard, who incidentally wrote one of my favorite plays (it’s an interesting article, by the way of the incidentally tangent). But I stopped to look up a word. I won’t shame myself by telling you which one but I will say that I thought I knew the word and just wanted to check that I was interpreting what he said correctly, which sounds like justification (and it is) but I do have a reasonably decent vocabulary, believe it or not. But from that point on it all seemed like another language to me and I kept having to go back and look words up. No kidding, I must have looked up 5 more words…just to check. And then I started looking up words that I KNOW that I know…just to check. Is this what they call a breakdown? Perhaps I should look it up…just to check.

7 comments:

Chris said...

I do that a lot when I'm reading. My favorite was when I couldn't read the word "doing", for some reason it stuck that it should rhyme with "boing".

The other day at breakfast in a restaurant I did the same thing with the word "omelette", it kept registering as "omel-ETTE", with a hard emphasis on the last syllable.

Wow, great article - I'll have to forward that to my e-mail debate team...

Jodi said...

I'll admit that I haven't read the article, but hope to. In my line of work, I deal with plenty of echolalics (a word?) and other interesting language disorders. It's fascinating.

Okay, okay, I'll read the article.

Jodi said...

P.S. Yes, I've done that with words from time to time. I clealy remember it happening with the word "smoke" once. I said it over and over and nearly convinced myself it wasn't a word.

Dan Churpus said...

Happens to me all the time. An old friend used to tell me that If you look at the words "THE BOX MEN" for about a minute straight, they'll actually become invisible. Not sure how this applies to this thread, but it sounds close enough.

Dan

dexter said...

omlette du fromage

Chris said...

I forwarded the Stoppard article to my friends late last night. So far we are at 63 e-mails about it and two of us have read all of The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (things go off on weird tangents)...

Victoria Winters said...

Dude! I TOTALLY know what you mean! I can say "mailbox" 20 times and then I have no idea what it is. I thought this was just a silly childhood thing of mine! :)