Word finding difficulties

I regularly find it difficult to retrieve words to express thoughts and have always had problems remembering names and numbers.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to think about word finding difficulties and consider how it’s affected me. Thinking about it has made me realise that in some ways it’s had a fairly significant effect on some aspects of my life.

Moy's Garage (1954)
Moy's Garage (1954)

As a young child I was fairly slow learning to talk and I couldn’t pronounce some sounds very well, for example the letter ‘r’.  As a toddler I couldn’t say my name ‘Roy’. I pronounced it ‘Moy’; my father made a toy garage for me and put ‘MOYS GARAGE’ on the sign over the entrance.

Although I drew a lot, I was sluggish in learning to read; at around age eight I still didn’t read very well and was given some Janet and John books by the school to practice at home with.

I didn’t learn the times tables properly. At school I learnt the 2, 5 and 10 times tables and a bit later the 12 (because of pounds, shillings and pence) and I could sometimes work some of the others out by adding up as I went along.

I don’t like writing, my handwriting is hard to read and I’ve always found it tricky to remember what to capitalise and punctuate. For some years in my 20s I wrote everything out in CAPS, even my name; my bank eventually refused to accept my signature until I stopped using capital letters.

Dodgy spelling (1958)

My spelling has always been weak; I have to think very carefully all the time I’m writing by hand and there are many words that I still can’t spell, because I can’t think of a straightforward way of remembering how many letters there should be, or which order the letters go in. For example: across/accross, dificulty/difficulty, writing/writting, letter/leter, neighbour/nieghbor, metre/meter, confussed/confused, always/allways, recal/recall, scisors/scissors and in writing I tend to mix up short words such as ‘to’, ‘of’ and ‘or’.  I sometimes miss letters, especially vowels, out of words.  It’s only in my 50s that I’ve found a way of remembering which way round the ‘i’ and ‘e’ go in ‘their’.  Until my 40s I had problems remembering the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’ and at school for example I was made to write out a hundred times the difference between ‘they’ and ‘thay’.

I have trouble in remembering times and dates; since my early teens I’ve always carried a diary and lists of things to remember, do or buy. Having my first PDA in 2002 was a huge improvement; everything is in one place and reminder alarms can be set for events of all kinds, brilliant!

I use a computer whenever I can, always with auto spelling and auto correction, which has been a huge boost to the speed and accuracy of my writing. As I type these notes the software is correcting the spelling as I go and changing the letter order of words like ‘and’ and ‘the’ when I transpose the letters.  Before computers I had to write copious notes with multiple corrections and a lot of Tippex and then use scissors and sellotape to put the sentences in the right order, then write the whole thing out again neatly enough for someone else to read.  This applied to essays and letters, and to writing greetings cards and postcards, where I still usually write out a few lines, correct them and then try to write neatly on the card.

I sometimes pause or struggle when trying to recall words or names, and often replace a word with something similar, to try and get my thought across, when I can’t use the word I’m having difficulty remembering.

I find it easier to comprehend what someone is saying if I can see them and I sometimes have difficulty taking phone messages or understanding what someone is explaining during the call.  I have to ask for spellings quite often over the phone and I can’t often remember the letters until it’s written out in full, so I have to ask the person to repeat the spelling until I have it all down on paper.

I only remember one or two oral instructions at most; so I usually have to make notes. I also find it hard to remember more than one or two food or drink orders, when I’m in a pub or restaurant, without writing them out.

The only car registration I can remember
The only car registration I can remember

I have problems remembering names and especially numbers.  I don’t remember my car registration number or any previous ones, apart from an old black Morris 8, series E that my father sold about 1963 which was DBC 357; I’ve no idea why I remember that.

I can’t remember any mobile phone numbers, including my own. The only numbers I can usually remember are my home phone and my main bank account, which has been the same for over thirty years.  I find it hard to remember door codes and usually remember in what order to press the buttons rather than the numbers.

There are lots of technological aids; I don’t often remember web addresses for example, so I use ‘delicious’ to store all of my favourite bookmarks in one place, then they are always available anywhere online.

Sometimes I can’t recall people’s names even if I’ve known them for decades; I know exactly who they are, why and where I know them from and everything about them, but I can’t recall their name.  The same regularly applies to celebrities on TV and people in the news.  Yet sometimes I can remember an actor’s real name but not their stage or character’s name.

I confuse the names of people with similar sounds; I think Alice but say Janis, or Yvette instead of Colette.

I have a huge number of the universal ‘tip of the tongue’ experiences, where I know something, especially a word or name, but can’t immediately recall it. I can quite often think of the first letter of the missing word and think of words related to it, but not bring up the actual word.

Occasionally I say a word that isn’t the one I intended to use (this needs elaboration, but I’m out of words for now).

I can’t read (or write) and listen to someone speak at the same time and if two people talk to me simultaneously my attention skips from one to the other and I fail to understand what either of them has said. However, that may be because I’m male and useless at multi-tasking!

I find it very hard to learn or remember stories, poems or song lyrics and I don’t remember many song or group names or tell jokes, but I do produce spoonerisms (occasionally inadvertently) and many puns in striving to recall the meaning or word that I want to use.

I’m very uncomfortable talking in a small group of people and can’t address a large group at all; I become speechless and silent and can neither think of anything to say nor remember what I meant to say. Very embarrassing.

My hearing has deteriorated slightly in recent years, particularly in my left ear, which had to be operated on in 2004 to stop the impairment getting worse, but it’s left me with poor hearing and occasional tinnitus in my left ear.

The hearing problem has made some of these word finding issues worse. I try to avoid talking to people where there is a lot of background noise, such as in pubs, social occasions and on buses, because I find it very hard to understand what is being said.  Separating speech sounds from background noise, such as a television, can be quite hard.

I’ve not had any sort of assessment, except when, as a toddler, my mother was concerned about my speech, hearing and concentration and asked our family doctor for advice. He conducted a short ‘whispering’ test from the opposite end of the room and said there was nothing to worry about.

In the last year or so, when I’ve started to think about the subject, I’ve done some research and, apart from very minor similarities to some aspects of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), I’ve only found one website that has any correlation to any of my concerns (http://www.wordfinding.com/). Then more recently I came across the term ‘lethologica’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethologica) which may have some connection to the problem.

Assessment almost certainly isn’t necessary, as I don’t think the effect on my day to day life is that critical. Setting the issues out in black and white and attempting to describe it, as I’ve tried to do here, probably makes more of an issue of it than is warranted.

But I might change my mind.


3 thoughts on “Word finding difficulties

    1. Hello, thanks for your comment. I’ve not found a solution, it just seems to be the way my brain works (or doesn’t), so I continue with the lists, bookmarks, auto-correct typing, iPhone reminders etc; whatever helps to fill in the name and number blanks. Just leaving the intermittent and awkward ‘what the heck is this person’s name?’ moment, or the slightly embarrassing ‘what’s your phone or car registration number?’ query :^)

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