28 October 2010

That Which I Hope Never Comes True

"Aphasia is the inability to use or understand language (spoken or written) because of a brain lesion."

I took that quote from the delightful word blog, Words, Words, Words (and Phrases), because it struck me deeply when I read.  Scriptor Senex (the blogger of aformentioned blog) has been providing wonderful nuggets of language for some time, and I get a kick out of the new (and sometimes not so new) words that he brings to our attention. Subfusc is a good recent example.  Go on, click through and read for yourself!

Sometimes, though, like the wreckage thrown up by the sea during a storm a word pops out and really grabs me in a visceral way. "Aphasia" is one of those words.  I read and re-read the sentence many times, and each time I had two reactions: 1) That really can't be, can it? and 2) That frightens the hell out of me!

The inability to use or understand language because of a brain lesion...or for that matter, ANY reason gives me a full-on case of the yammering fantods.  I know it can happen, I know I've heard the word used in context, but seeing it so succinct and stark on the page made me shiver.

It also made me give thanks that I can use and understand language.  I love language, words, phrases, even if my depth of knowledge is woefully incomplete and my mastery of technical issues is far from professional.  Language, language, language: the keys to understanding the world and making sense out of it.  I need language, crave it, fear it, and love it.

I wondered what I would do if I suddenly became aphasic.  How would I say what I want to say?  How would I empty my mind, so that I would not go mad?

My Big Bro was asked once, if he were to lose a sense, would he rather go blind or go deaf.  He said he would rather go blind, because he could not imagine a world in which he could not listen to music and hear things like birdcalls.  He said he could take not seeing, but to not hear music?  Too scary to contemplate.

I understand what he meant.  I feel the same way about words and language.  I hope I never experience the condition of aphasia...but at least I know there is a word for it.  That's something I'm likely to never forget!


  1. accckkk...when i was faced with literal blindness, I pondered that question too.....and was hard pressed to really say which I would REALLY prefer to lose, faced with the potential....but the idea of losing language...when it is so hard won...from the communicating of a need, to forming a sound, to making a word, and hten a word that makes sense, and then sentences, and grammar and punctuation...i sometimes will look at a sentence and just be amazed that i know what every thing means.....to lose that....i can't bear the idea

  2. First - I didn't know about that word. So thank you for re-directing me to said blog.

    Second - you can lose language? There's a thought that never occured to me. Ever. Losing language. S.C.A.R.Y. :-|

  3. I knew someone who had a stroke and suffered from aphasia ..
    It is as if you have suddenly landed on another planet and no one speaks your language.. horrid, nightmarish stuff.

  4. thanks for the link, sugar! i found this on the sidebar there and thought it was hilarious! “I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh i can't imagine not being able to use or hear words again. when the coconut krewe were young, we used to play the word a day game. at dinner, you have to bring your new word and use it in a sentence correctly. to this day, i still don't know how 8 year old super nana discovered the word postprandial! xoxox

  5. I used to play that "game"... try to decide which sense I could live without. I could never decide. A loss of even my sense of smell seemed almost too much to bear. But I also know, in my heart, I would continue and adapt regardless.

  6. What if you don't want to give up either? Can you substitute an appendage or an organ?

  7. Thanks, dude..like my worry bank isn't overdrawn already :)

  8. Yeah, my ex had a brain aneurysm when he was 17. It was a leak, not a rupture, so over the years it cauterized itself and has actually shrunk. He's doing well. However, when the leak occurred, he experienced many things, including aphasia. Fortunately it was temporary.

    A scary condition indeed.

  9. My mother is showing signs of dementia - she is young, only in her 60s (it's heartbreaking). An Alzheimer's-like dementia seems to run in my family. Scares the hell out of me.

    However, there are as many folks who have made it to elderly years w/ their brains sharp and intact. I intend to be that sort.


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