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Now reading . . .

"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

by Nathaniel Philbrick

"The Way of the Priests"
by Robert J. Conley

August 10, 2009

Words have meaning

I read an article this week about reading. The author, Stephen Wilbers, said, ”Your words are inextricably linked to your thoughts. They are central to your intelligence, your memories, and your identity. To lose your words is to lose fundamental part of who you are.”

As we age I suppose that we all wonder if we are getting Alzheimer’s disease or is our momentary lapse just a part of the aging process. I often think that we aren’t worried about children when they forget things. Who hasn’t marveled at the piles of lost and found at schools and churches? It seems that jackets and mittens and books and shoes and umbrellas and other necessities are often left and often left in small sizes. Children forget things. Some children carry on this tradition well into their college years and their mothers spent much of their time driving to school with lunches or lunch money or homework or books or permission slips or other things absolutely essential to the ongoing education of the child. Niece Terri says they didn’t forget because their mother worked and couldn’t bring forgotten things to school.

When Mark was working Kay and I had a little rote saying to help us all remember what Mark needed every day. We would chant together, “Badge, belt, lunch, money, driver’s license, keys.” Mark would check each item before he went out the door. We all need help.

Everybody forgets things but it is only when you get to be over 50 that the worry about Alzheimer’s Disease begins to nag at you. Some things that have been suggested to help are some or all of the following:

. Good nutrition
. Adequate sleep
. Physical exercise
. Limited multi-tasking
. mentally stimulating activities such as bridge, ball room dancing, Scrabble, problem solving puzzles, crossword puzzles

One of the activities that keeps your mind nimble is reading. Young people today were raised on Sesame Street and similar programs where each segment is only seconds long and there are seldom times when a child is encouraged to focus for more than that. Reading is a wonderful thing. I think we were all thrilled when a generation of readers sprang up thanks to the Harry Potter books, regardless of your feeling about the content. It seems now that those readers want to see the movies more than read the books. The imagination is such a wonderful thing it is a shame to limit a book to a movie maker’s vision.

Reading gives you access to four elements critical to mental acuity and language facility, Mr. Wilbers says. They are sustained engagement with carefully developed thought, employing a broad vocabulary rendered in a variety of sentence structures. He goes on to say, “It is unlikely that you can text-message or tweet your way to a more precise thought or a keener grasp of the human condition. Put another way, spending time in the presence of accomplished writers will entertain you and make you smart. It may even help you keep your wits.”

Kay once gave me a book entitled, “The Superior Person’s book of Words.” It is in fact, an amusing collection of amusing words and usages. On the back cover is the following example:

Paronomasia n - Wordplay of the punning kind, i.e., using similar-or identical sounding words with different meanings in close proximity to each other, for an effect of comedy, balance or cleverness. For example “Cadillac’s” and “cattle acts”. Paronomasiac is an appropriate grandiloquism for punster, as well as for anyone with a penchant for messing around with words.

Who wouldn’t love to be able to slip the following word into a conversation, ranarium – n, meaning a frog farm. One could say, “Better smarten up, Fosdyke, or it’ll be the ranarium for you!

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