As an aspiring writer, I am constantly on the hunt for new words. I try to learn a new word every day using dictionary.com. A little notebook in my purse is on-the-ready, waiting for that moment when I come across a new word and don’t want to forget it. Whenever I read a book, I keep a note pad next to me to jot down interesting phrases. One idea can lead to another, like a trigger or a springboard, to help me improve my own writing.

Here’s an example from the sequel I’m working on for Copper Star:

“Aunt Martha tried to smile.”

Look what happens when I jazz it up a little:

“Aunt Martha hadn’t smiled since the Hoover Administration.”

Big, big difference. Without any more explanation, the reader “gets” Aunt Martha.

The reason I bring this up is because I am often struck by the parallel of my philology hobby with my Dad’s ever-increasing aphasia, also known as “tip-of-the-tongue-itis.” Or, word-retrieval skills, which are rapidly disappearing for him.

Because Dad is well educated, his mind often supplies a very unusual word for the word he can’t pull up. He’s a champion malapropist. Apparently, that’s one of the reasons that people with higher education are able to compensate for dementia, at least for a while. The pathways formed in the brain at an early age are able to help out as other brain roadways start to shut down. Picture big yellow detour signs in your head, redirecting words to try and get them to the right place.

After a conversation with Dad, I am left with gratitude that I am still able to learn new words and to use them appropriately. I’m determined to keep that habit up as long as possible.

Prayerfully, for my entire life.

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