The Search for Words

When You Cannot Remember the Word (Lethologica)

By Annette Rey

When you are writing, it seems inevitable, interruptions occur that waylay your train of thought; the jangling of the telephone, the doorbell rings, a family member talks to you. That’s bad enough.

What about the pauses in your writing when you can’t remember the right word you know should go right in that spot in your sentence? You’re on a roll and your fingers are moving deftly, except for that!

I have two very good tools to help shorten that unwanted pause, and to get your mind back on writing.

Number one is Descriptionary by Marc McCutcheon. It is called A Thematic Dictionary and is easy to use. Say you want to use the word cubism in your article about painting, but you can’t remember that word. Open Descriptionary and go to the word Art. Seven pages follow of art terms and their definitions, among them cubism.

The book can be used as a study manual and reference on associated terms to a subject about which you want to write, opening you to words you do not yet know. If you don’t know a word, how could you look it up in a standard dictionary? This book brings a whole category into focus listing individual words in that category.

For instance, subjects under Sports are listed from Archery to Wrestling. An amazing amount of words are associated with one subject. I have not heard most of the words listed under Fencing, Hockey, Racquetball, Skating, Skydiving, Thoroughbred Racing. I could create an exercise, a puzzle, for my site with mix-and-match term columns using this book. (I think I will!) This is yet another example I use to show my readers that writing fodder is everywhere around us.

The second book I suggest is The Writer’s Digest Flip Dictionary. It functions much like the book mentioned above. Words are listed in alphabetical order like a dictionary, but the entries differ in that many or most of them are not a single word, but are a phrase, like:  mirror mounted on swiveling frame (cheval glass), faucet with a bent-down handle (bibcock), father going through motions of birth with mother (couvade). You can see how this type of dictionary can help you out of logonamnosis (obsession trying to recall a word).


If the word you find is unfamiliar to you, I suggest you look that word up in a standard dictionary. The word couvade, above, has a definition beyond the one indicated. It is: a custom in some cultures in which when a child is born, the father takes to bed as if bearing the child and submits himself to fasting, purification, or taboos. So be prepared to learn a lot of new information.

Remember, every new thing you learn adds to your writer’s journey, and makes your writing richer.

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