Word Finding: The Betrayal of the Tongue

“Did you buy a new…. a new….”

I pause.  Brett stares at me waiting for the object of this sentence to appear.

The tip of my tongue starts to to panic.  What is that thing called?  You know, with the netting.  Between trees.  Ropes.  You lie in it.

My mind hurls clues and prompts to my tongue in this Password gameshow of my own design.  My tongue seems uninterested and gives my mind a blank look.

Suddenly my tongue takes a different tact and blurts out, a little too enthusiastically,  “Umbrella!  A new umbrella.  You know, for the back yard?”  It’s cover-up time.  Clever move, tongue.

Brett, puzzled, shakes his head.  He had no intention of replacing our perfectly good umbrella.  It was a hammock that he bought.

That ropey thing any self respecting preschooler can identify.

If you are of a certain age, chances are, this word finding issue has happened to you.

First the bad news.  (Any sentence that begins with the phrase, “As we age…” probably won’t end well.)

As we age, we do indeed lose verbal fluency.  We process information slower.  Our vocabularies may not be decreasing (phew) but our ability to quickly name specific objects or persons is on the decline.

But there is some good news.

Richard E. Nisbett, a cognitive psychologist, found,  “that when it comes to intelligence, experience can outrun biology. Older people make more use of higher-order reasoning schemes that emphasize the need for multiple perspectives, allow for compromise, and recognize the limits of knowledge.”

And there’s more..

“Despite a decline in fluid intelligence, complicated reasoning that relates to people, moral issues or political institutions improved with age.”

Also, just last week the NY Times published an article that links aerobic fitness to mental acuity.  (So in the immortal words of my dear mother, Peggy, who never seemed at a loss for a word or a paragraph, KEEP MOVING!)

Finally, there ARE some commonly accepted strategies for improving word retrieval.  (A more detailed version of this list, paraphrased below, can be found here.)

1. Reading everyday (including the dictionary) increases your vocabulary. With an increased vocabulary other parts of language such as word finding and fluency will improve.

2. Practice reviewing the names of your friends and peers by mentally associating a name with their face.

3. Take any letter of the alphabet and try and state aloud as many words as you can that start with that letter. With practice your list of words generated gets longer.

4. Write a short segment on your day’s experience in a journal. Research suggests that writing with a passion improves language skills.

5. Work on your public speaking to stimulate the brain and your language skills. Talk about what you love and your anxiety will be reduced.  (Between us, there is little chance I will practice this one!)

6. Crossword puzzles promote vocabulary fluency.

7. Name objects that you see as you walk about the community.

8. Work on the art of the story telling or telling a joke.

9. A great website is http://www.fitbrains.com.

10. Use the alphabet to cue the word you are thinking of.


So,  lest I forget….  a quick review.   Let’s keep moving, recite the alphabet, tell jokes, write, read, and tout our wisdom.  Without being obnoxious.  Well, maybe just a little.  We’ve earned it!

Today’s Takeaway –

I forgot.

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 8.32.08 AM.png

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

2 thoughts on “Word Finding: The Betrayal of the Tongue

  1. Loved this! Your end made me laugh out loud. I have terrible trouble retrieving names. My husband and I challenge each other, hough he is always the one who gets it. Sometimes at 2 in the morning. Well, at least there are some good things to this aging process.


    1. Isn’t it annoying that the word pops up in the middle of the night?! Thanks for your comment! At least we can laugh at ourselves! xo Barclay


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s