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Memory Health: Alzheimer's Support Group
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A strange kind of expressive aphasia

A strange kind of expressive aphasia

Something odd I noticed that defies classification. Most expressive aphasia seems to fit into nice neat categories, all stemming from a systemic problem: words that come out are not the words that are intended to come out. Now if you have a garden-variety type such as what you would see portrayed on televised medical dramas, you will display an almost Dr. Seuss-level defect: the wrong word always comes out as a rhyme of the intended word, or its the polar opposite of what was meant, and so on. One key feature that all of the "Dr Suess" varieties share in common is that they are all immediately recognizable as a mistake, as gibberish.

Now I have other bits of the aphasia that are obvious or close enough to it. However one thing I noticed and mentioned to my wife of 20+ years tonight is that my cursing has suffered greatly since this began.

In total transparency, I was raised in a parochial school in Southern Michigan in the 1960's for the first seven years of my education, and for those who don't know, parochial school basically means going to school in a church, going to mass every day, all classes taught by nuns, etc. Lots and lots of religious influence and doctrine. So that is thing one in my background.

The year I graduated I enlisted in the U.S. Army and as part of BASIC training I was (as millions of others were) subjected to the tender mercies of Drill Instructors as they are now called or plain old Drill Sergeants in my time. You learned alot from them, how to work, how to think, how to survive, how to fight (more or less), etc, all the stuff you expect a solder to know. However one thing they also teach you, something that stays with you long after the military discipline and training have fallen away, is an absolutely bodacious capacity for colorful language. This is the absolutely nicest way I can describe it but from the day after BASIC to this one here, I have been able to freely cuss up a blue storm in such a way the listener ends of laughing as much as crying. That was the Drill Sergeants trick for inflicting hell on new recruits: someone will screw up, they always do, so the DI will then cuss out the trainee in such a way that the rest end up snickering and getting their asses in a sling. Drill Sergeants love inflicting group misery. So its not like I am personally funny or anything, just that the way a DI can curse is creative enough to make almost anyone snicker and effective cursing is a language like any other. Since I have had a knack for languages (mimicking more than anything else), the "Tao" of cursing became second-nature. Put it this way: one place I was working in Virginia I was a programmer stuck in an elevator with a secretary for some big-shot and the big-shot himself. Once the big-shot exited the elevator (and the doors closed; I am not THAT stupid) I let out a line of curing that had the secretary actually pee her pants...or skirt...or whatever it was. So assume for the point of this article I could curse effectively.

So imagine my surprise when I realized (and my wife concurred when I pointed it out) is that the spontaneous cursing I used to do has been gradually replaced by something I can describe as nothing less that Disney-friendly language. A whole lot of things have been replaced with "gosh" and "darn" and things like that, words I have not used since I was 10. Its not that I can't cuss, if I put my mind to it I can get close to what it was but the really good stuff comes w/o thought or intention, just rolls out almost lyrically. Now the stuff that comes out w/o thought is like "Oh my Lord" or "Dog gone-it!"

Now I know there are some folks here deep into the church and I can respect it for you if I can't respect it myself. I only mention that because I don't see this language substitution as any kind of sign from God or anything like that. Last time I think I actually saw God was after some particularly strong LSD in 1979 but that was a whole 'nother story, also not having to do with religion.

So I am thinking that it might have more to do with somehow flashing back to my childhood in some way, as I would have spoken back then. Now that by itself is a flier at best but I have this other, otherwise-useless nugget of information: something else that just rolls out of my mouth is sometimes very arcane and very..."old" language, English as it hasn't been used in a hundred years, even though I don't know if I have ever heard much of it spoken in my lifetime. Not a terribly big mystery, exactly; I grew up pretty much in isolation and with no other kids around all I had was books to learn about talking from...and these books were the classics from Robert Louis Stevenson to Victor Hugo. I formed alot of how I spoke from characters and prose in these volumes. I had nothing else to compare it to.

So its possible this aphasic "glitch" is somehow retrieving bits of long lost memory when I am trying to say something (or cuss to make my finger quit hurting after I smack it with the hammer)....but I have not ever heard of something like this....all I know is this "rule" is as close as I can come to classifying it.....

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Very interesting, Jeff. Even when afflicted with disease, our brains have amazing workaround solutions. Can't access salty Army curses? Access mild Boy Scout talk instead....

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While this will make sense to only the two of us, years of working with back-prop neural nets have given me an odd perspective on memory links/associations in the human brain, how they are formed and the strength they have or more to the point, what strengthens one connection and weakens another. Even though the human brain remains a mystery and straight math drives the neural network, its a damned-fluid kind of math.....


Another hilarious winner, @jeffcobb Yep, you did it again. How you can write so brilliantly amazes me. I would like to have read something creative of yours before you became an adult-child! The computer whiz I get you were, like I was the creative accounting whiz, the proofreader whiz, the stock whiz, and finally the paralegal whiz before I crashed like a whimpering mound of mindless glob, but if you are this good now, what were you as an adult adult? Back to the aphasia (one of my biggest problems is bounding around like a rabbit and never saying what I came to say so states the neuro and he IS Einstein, you know), I have become the exact opposite of you. Wanting to overcome the bodacious colorful language of my southern childhood, I always keep the proverbial bar of soap handy to keep my mouth clean to measure the standards to the true genteel southern lady. About 3 years ago, such a streak of "blue storm cussing" spewed from my mouth towards my unsuspecting husband, with "red hot anger coals" I did believe another person had instantly inhabited my body, as I innocently stood to the side and watched and listened to this stranger attack my white-shocked husband. Of course, his white face turned to red and he left the house out of fear of his retort, neither of us knowing I had glowing white lesions in my brain with the emblazoned letters of MS branded on them, until a year later. Until I was given a little white pill to take every day, cuss words rolled as freely off my tongue as did my praises to my forgiving Savior on Sunday morning. (My background is one of attending church 3x a week, knowing and believing Bible scriptures as well as the English language, and living as much in the footsteps of Jesus as this old gal is able---just as a point of reference for the aphasia). The aphasia now is very confusing when I talk. Strange towns are spoken instead of the right one, strnge foods instead of the right one, but mostly none at all. Just blank. No word for the word I want. Like while ago when I was wanting to write 'Paralegal' - nothing, just nothing. So, I googled lawyers' assistant. Unfortunately, when I am talking to someone, that person does not want to wait while I google for the word I want to say in the sentence I want to say in the conversation I want to have with that person. So, I retire to my room in my house and become a hermit, until I see your name in my inbox.

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