Where are words located within our body? Or sentences, for that matter? They keep coming when we want to talk or write or even when we just want to be quiet. And if they are stored somewhere, how are they stored? Are they all sitting next to each other? Perhaps in the order in which you first heard or understood them? Can we know more about this questions by thinking about it?

What about the words of a foreign language? Are they kept in a different compartment or are they grouped together around a particular concept, for example love (‘liefde’, ‘Liebe’). But then what about ‘amour’, which is a completely different word? I know from experience that when I am speaking German, for some reason I have almost no access to my French vocabulary.

What about this case? As a child at school we had to learn the names of each train station on every railroad in the country. To do so, the teacher pointed at dots on a blind map with a stick and asked us to name the stations, as if we were travelling by train. The route we take frequently now, from Arnhem to Utrecht, has a station (Veenendaal-De Klomp) which name I can never remember. However hard I try. Why is this the case? Should I ask what Freud would make of this?

Then, I recall having a dream in which I was able to converse in a unknown foreign language. Of course, when I woke I wasn’t able to do this anymore. A mystery? Are there perhaps words that do not come up, because you have no use for them?

Another thing to consider is how the first words for objects in the prehistoric age arose and whether the first people were surprised to discover that they could understand each other.

The other day I walked past a front door with the name ‘Kikkert’ written on it in old fashioned lettering. I instantly remembered that this was the name of the pianist, who played at the balletschool I mentioned in my previous post. If you’d had asked me then, I would have said: “Not for the life of me!”


  1. Grace (as in Gifts of ...) says:

    Thanks for giving me and my brain a mini-break from packing. These are all such excellent questions on a topic that has intrigued me from time to time.

    I rather like Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas on morphic fields – the body and brain as more antenna than storage space. Susanne K. Langer’s speculations on the origins of language appeal to me. All books and notes on these topics are already packed or I might be drawn into a deeper discussion. For today the mini-break is enough of a refreshment. Onwards …

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