What’s that Word?

December 8, 2023
December 8, 2023 Betsy Voreacos

What’s that Word?

 “Decoy!” I texted my friend Assunta. “The word is decoy.”

This was a while ago, back when Taylor Swift attended her first Kansas City Chiefs’ game. I was somewhat surprised to be having this conversation because most well-adjusted people my age don’t engage in speculation about the rich and famous whom we will never, ever meet nor should ever, ever profess to know. I’ve always considered Assunta well-adjusted. She was the daughter’s middle-school Creative Writing teacher, is married to a musician (not of pop star ilk), and is a member of my cerebral book club. So, a two-sided Taylor Swift conversation with one of the aforementioned cerebrals was an unexpected treat.

The banter had to do with Matty Healy (IYKYK) and whether that relationship was real or “what’s the word – you know when you do something to throw someone off track?”  

I looked at her, baffled. After all, she was the English teacher. I was just the writer.

“You know what I mean, when it’s not real, like you’re trying to divert attention.”

I knew exactly what she meant but had no idea what the word was.

But I eventually remembered.


Back in the day when child-rearing was all consuming and I consistently had ten thousand things swirling through my mind – who gets picked up from practice at 6 pm, when are parent-teacher conferences, where is the away baseball game, who needs poster board for a science project, when is the first college essay due, whose birthday is tomorrow — I kept an excel sheet. Color-coded. Of course that didn’t help unless I had the document right in front of me.

So, so, so many times I’d bolt out of the car after a pick-up or a drop-off or a circular journey around town hooked on a particular task that needed immediate tasking.  It was usually nothing terribly earth shattering – rather something along the lines of tick medication that I was already two months behind in administering. I’d put “tick, tick, tick” on repeat but by the time I hit the kitchen, the tick had tocked and a thousand other thoughts had taken precedence. I knew there was something I was forgetting, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was.

Much later, after opening a kitchen cabinet, I would find the tick meds stashed next to (if not on top of) the Fiestaware and would thump my palm to my forehead, “Duh. That’s what it was. The dog.”

When I commiserated with my mother she answered with a smile that said, clear as day, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

All too often I’ll get something in my head that I absolutely must have. Like NOW. But by the time I click into Amazon, I have zero memory of what was essential just moments earlier. Which is why I end up with seven new items on my porch the following day. Same thing with social media. A particular person will pop into my mind and I think – hmm, I wonder if they’re home from vacation yet? I’ll go to check their page and poof – the very essence of that individual has completely disappeared, sending me off to look up random elementary school friends instead.

I have a zillion note pads and sticky notes within a pen’s reach at all times. In the car, at my desk, on the kitchen table, next to the TV, on my bedside table, even in the bathroom. I’ve tried eco-consciously typing into my phone, but it’s too hard to remember where I put my reminder. On any given day I might stash it in Notes, put it on a voice message or in a text sent to myself. Not that I don’t forget where that scrap of paper went, but it usually resurfaces – in the pocket of my jeans, in a random desk drawer or crumpled in my cross-body bag along with my Amazon returns receipts – and always enough days, weeks or months later that I wonder why it was ever something I needed to write down in the first place.

I can deal with the brain blips. But it’s the evaporating words – the words that are the way I make my (meager as it may be) living, the way I make my friends (and enemies) the way I process my neuroses and the way I save myself from total implosion – that cause me the most pain. And because I am of a certain age, I’m constantly wondering if younger others are scrutinizing me even more closely, looking for signs of my imminent demise.

I rely heavily on my thesaurus and have been known to google “what’s the word for when you forget words” only to get a response like this:

When this happens, language scientists use the terms “anomia” or “anomic aphasia” to describe the condition, which can be associated with brain damage due to stroke, tumors, head injury or dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

And so I keep googling until I get a less dire diagnosis.

If the inability to recall words, phrases, or names is a temporary but debilitating disorder it is known as lethologica.

Not that I’ll remember, but it’s nice to know there’s a word for it.

I thought when I lost my mind I’d have no idea what a particular item is. Like I would wonder why it’s in my house and for what purpose. Instead, I can describe the object to a T (tee?). It’s that thing that I spend half my day in front of, you know the machine that turns my thoughts into words, that brings out the arthritis in my fingers, that houses my bank accounts, blogs, Christmas present lists, phone numbers, recipes, you know – that thing that sits on my desk.

You mean your computer?” my 98 year-old mother responded.

I try to keep my mind sharp by playing multiple word games a day. Though, believe me, I know the real word for that – procrastination. I play Words with Friends, Boggle, Word Wipe, Spelling Bee, Wordle, the maxi and the mini New York Times Crossword puzzle every day. The NYT crosswords get more difficult as the week progresses. I can only finish Monday and Tuesday puzzles without help – though every now and then I can get through a Wednesday. To enhance my doing of nothing, I’ve started on the crossword archives. Just today while doing an April of 2020 (Monday) puzzle, the clue read “Band on the Run” band. I know this. I know it is Paul McCartney. And his now deceased wife, Linda. It’s not some obscure rapper or new-to-the-scene rocker. I lived this era. I saw them in concert. But couldn’t for the life of me pull the name of the band out of the recesses of my brain.

“If I’m like this now, what’s it going to be like when I’m your age?” I moaned to my mama.

“Who are you again?” she asked.

“I forget,” I answered.

The difference being, she was kidding.