Words that (grey) matter


I love to learn new words.  Let’s call new words category A ­­– words that I don’t already have stored in my head – my latest being ‘oligarchy’ which is firmly positioned centre in my grey matter now.

With the latest print edition of the Collins English dictionary contacting 50, 000 newly-added words I can’t help but sigh and ask myself, how on earth will I learn the new words (category B – newly submitted words) ­when I’m still storing category A words in my neurological hub?

I should really have no fear because I’ve read articles like this and so I know that out of the 17 principles of having a healthy brain I meet but five of the criteria, so technically I have enough brain storage to stockpile category A and B words.

17 principles to brain gymnastics

I ‘tick’ these, do you?

  • Physical exercise
  • Life-long learning
  • Mental stimulation
  • Social interaction
  • Sleep
  • Stress management
  • Laughter
  • Vegetables
  • Care for your heart
  • Musical training
  • Repeated testing, rather than repeated studying

But uh oh, fail!

X Healthy breakfast – nothing, and coffee
X Blueberries – only if they are on special offer
X Red wine – Prosecco for me, always
X Learning a language via song – who really does this?
X Neurobics – changing your routine – never

I’ll run through my top three now.

One: physical exercise
Researchers have found the areas of the brain that are stimulated through exercise are associated with memory and learning. Aha, tick!  I work out most days now, after having three major spine operations – I knew it had to count towards something.

Two: lifelong learning
Learning over time enhances memory and the survival of new brain cells.  So, you are literally growing your brain, imagine that! Done. I’m learning to cook – my husband would say this is ‘ongoing’.  And it’s a priority for me to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, that’s every-day lifelong learning.

Three: neurobics
Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center, coined neurobics, a unique system of brain exercises using your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways.  In other words, shaking up your everyday routine. I’m afraid, this is definitely not for me.  I use the same locker at the gym; always get my clothes out the night before work, and I walk the same route to and from the train station.

So, now that I’ve given myself an ego boost by meeting 71% of the brain criteria, I’m feeling mentally agile and at full learning capacity to absorb the newly submitted – category B words.

Imagine my inaudible gasp (of dismay) when I find out that I must learn horrible words:

Selfie – if you don’t know what this word is I’m afraid you’ve been hiding under a rock, may I suggest you type on your keyboard: hideous spoof song ‘selfie’ into YouTube, hmm catchy!

Onesie – simple, all-in-one outfit.  You know, the one your relatives bought you for Christmas and you exchanged it on the 26 December.

Photobomb – an uninvited person (or animal) in a photo, normally taken on a smartphone.

Adorkable – a blend of adorable and dork, how charming!

Twerking – apart from meaning the worst word of all time? A perverse dance ritual performed by moving the hips rapidly back and forth while standing with the feet apart (also known as humping).

But it’s ok! There’re some valid, fun and useful category B words too, phew!:

Al desko – a meal at one’s desk, at one’s place of work. I’m partial to an al desko lunch whilst browsing BBC news.

Bitcoin – a system of open source peer-to-peer software for the creation and exchange of payment in a certain type of cryptocurrency. No, not Kryptonite.

Textonym – one of two or more words that can be generated by pressing the same key combinations on a mobile phone: book = cool

Vape – to inhale nicotine vapour. Thus vaping (to vape).

And that’s enough to keep you going!  I skipped my healthy breakfast so I’m off now to learn a language via song, sift through some category A words and remove some category B from my over-exerted grey matter.

Picture citation: My Name is Rom My Brain, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0