This week’s word is lethologica (pronunciation here) and according to the Oxford English Dictionary it’s a rare word for the inability to remember a particular word or name. Unless you’re one of those blessed people with perfect recall for names of those they’ve met previously, I am sure you’re grappled for a name at some point. I used to try and bluff my way out or avoid the name entirely but having been on the receiving end of that approach, it doesn’t work. Now I admit my fuzziness and ask for a reminder.
Being unable to retrieve a particular word from the memory vaults can hit even a word nerd like myself and can be frustrating so I was delighted to discover there’s a term for this struggle. Lethologica is a relatively recent addition to the English language, possibly coined by Carl Jung and first seen c. 1915. It’s formed by joining two Greek words – lethe which means forgetfulness and logos which means word.
In Greek mythology the River Lethe, also known at the River of Oblivion, ran through the underworld. The souls of the dead drank from it to forget their earthly memories. The goddess of forgetfulness, also called Lethe, supervised this process.
The other four rivers were the Styx or River of Hatred which ringed Hades seven times, the Acheron or River of Pain which is the one the ferryman Charon crossed with the souls, the Phelegethon or River of Fire leading to Tartarus, and the Cocytus or River of Wailing where souls not buried properly were abandoned. Interestingly the Acheron is a real river in Greece.
So the next you’re struggling to name a person or find the perfect word, try distracting your friends with the history of lethologica instead.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and what was that word again – oh yes – wordfooling,
p.s. I’m delighted to announce that Wordfoolery has made it to the shortlist in the 2017 V by Very Irish Blog Awards in two categories – Arts & Culture and Books & Literature.