Noun Loss

Noun-loss is a term Bill and I used to use to describe the amusing phenomenon of losing one's nouns. It happened quite a bit when our seven children were all little, and was brought on by getting less sleep, while having our days packed fuller and fuller, so to speak. In other words, it began showing up by the second week of homeschool. We simply got into the habit of halting in the middle of sentences, unable to go on without a noun.

"Honey, you're making your letters backward; let's do them again."

"Which ones?"

"The know, the ones with a balloon and a stick."


"Today we're going to read about how Moses' rod turned into a serpent right in front of..." And here, I see a tall, dark-skinned man in a robe with a scepter. But the only word that comes to mind is "Batman," a program I haven't seen in years, but suddenly flashes into my mind as though I just watched an episode this morning.

"Pharaoh, Mom."

"Yes, I knew that."

It got worse as the school year wore on. By October, noun-loss sounded like: "Katy, would you please move the...uhm..."

Katy looked around the room.

"High chair, mom?"

"Right, high chair."

Or Bill, watching the chickens in our back yard fly up into the cedar tree at dusk to roost, called all the children to the window and said, "Everyone, come watch the...the..."

Our teen wandered over and took a quick look out the window, and then at Bill.

"Chickens, Dad."

"Yes, of course. They're flying up into the tree again."

By November, we refused to stop talking simply because we'd lost a noun. While pointing to the same high chair, I might say, "Katy, would you please move that...uhm...the white, plastic, seat-thing the short child in diapers sits in?" And Bill began to mumble things like, "Everyone...come watch, white things with feathers. They're flying up into the ...the...large brown pole-thing with branches again."

The children came just the same.

I knew we were about half way through the school year when I found myself in an appliance store in December one year, and by the time it was my turn at the counter, I had totally forgotten why I was there. Then, I remembered I was supposed to be buying a part for the refrigerator, but all I got out was, "I need a part for the...for the..." before I realized I had lost another noun. I glanced at the line of people behind me, and then leaned over the counter and whispered, "It's a large white box that sits in the kitchen, and we keep food cold in it." The man's eyes locked on me with a blank expression as he flatly stated, "Refrigerator."

"Yes!" I said, "That's it!" I was genuinely excited that I had described it well enough for him to guess it. He thought I needed psychiatric attention.

Noun-substitution was the next rung down the verbal ladder, and it started showing up by early spring. We simply substituted whatever nouns came to mind, trusting that a primitive form of sign-language would get the message across. I simply couldn't afford to lose the children's interest just because nouns were disappearing right and left, especially if I had been using perfectly good ones all morning during school. Pointing to the high chair, this sounded like, "Katy, would you please move that...uhm, pyramid, the Queen of England?"

She moved the high chair.

And poor Bill, who is a network administrator by day, was doomed to, "Uhm, short folks! Come! a, er, traffic jam on the, uhm, flagpole with branches! Hurry!" That one did get the children to the window quickly.

We realize, of course, that life would have been easier if I'd moved the high chair myself, and Bill watched the chickens alone. But, one can never tell when nouns will disappear into thin air, only to return in an unrelated sentence later. This was lots of fun when trying to hold one's own at, say, a dinner party with grown-ups.

"And what do think of the governor's race?"

I could feel pressure mounting to say something mildly intelligent, but suddenly discovered a formerly missing noun approaching.


"Pardon me?"

To successfully navigate through those busy days, I had to let the Lord remove a few standards that I thought were important, like keeping an ideal house or schedule. And I had to learn to work on keeping hearts instead. We have only two children left at home now, and four in college, but it was only a couple of years ago that I noticed (while driver-training our fifth teen in a row) that noun-loss began rearing its pesky head again.

"Aack! Stephen! Look! (I start pointing wildly.) Er, light-thingy ahead!"

Stephen calmly replies, "

Red light, Mom."

"Yes! Aack! Hit the pedal-thingy!"

"The brake?"

"YES! Aack! NOW!!!"

"Okay, but, it's a block away and it just turned green. Do you still want me to slow down?"

I sigh and glance in the mirror to see an entire crop of new-gray hairs popping out. "

Yes. The shop-thingy where I get my hair-stuff done is on the next, er, place where two streets come together. I think I need to stop to make an, er, a thingy where you ask them if you can come in later."

"An appointment?"

"Yes. Aack! Stephen! Look! Another light-thingy ahead!