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.