Sunday, October 31, 2010



So, do you have my nouns? Some days there isn't a single one to be heard in our house. In chat between my husband and me, nada. It's not like the dogs can eat them. They've just disappeared. Take today's morning conversation:

He, looking frazzled. "Where's my um …?"
Me, taking one eye off fascinating newspaper article featuring severed body parts. "What um?"
"You know, the …" Voice trails off again. Cute silver head is scratched. He is wondering what is wrong with his wife that she can't tear herself from the blood and gore story to answer the simplest question. "Things, the things. I need them to start the um."
"Oh right. I think I saw them on the whatzit, next to your … Did you check there?"
"What whatzit?" He is starting to get annoyed, but doesn't want to show it, at least not until he finds the things.
"What things?" I counter. He's not the only one who can get annoyed.
"I had them when I got back yesterday because I used them to open the …"
"Did you look on the whatzit?" I point upwards toward the bedroom, which has several whatzits, one of them with things on it.
Grumbling starts. "Now I'm going to be late meeting what's-his-name at--." Snapping fingers follows grumbles, trying to get a handle on what's-his-name.

A noun is after all person, place or thing. The persons and places can vanish too. Snapping fingers will not bring them back, as we've learned the hard way.

Of course, it doesn't pay for me to get too uppity. It's merely a matter of time before I find myself saying "Have you seen that pile of stuff that was here yesterday? There's a lot of important er … "
"What pile of stuff?"
"You know, the, um. It was this high, over there by the you know."
"Your voice trailed off. What stuff again?"
Of course, he has no choice but to cooperate. After all, didn't I help him find those things on the whatzit just this morning? "Are you certain you didn't move it somewhere?"
"I don't think so."
"Sure you did.. It's right over by the gizmo near the the uh. Oops, watch out for the queerthing on the -- . Are you all right? Did you hurt your …?"

Okay, all this, including missing noun injuries, might be expected if we didn't own six thousand books, including at least eighteen dictionaries. Or if we hadn't both read obsessively as children. I took care of fiction, he was in charge of non-fiction. Even if I wasn't as a friend once described me 'a known talker'. So it's not like we didn't ever have a supply of fancy upscale and occasionally obscure nouns to sprinkle in our sentences, insert into conversations or meaningful questions.

Of course, what good are dictionaries when you have to check everything under S for stuff or T for thing?

I put my lapses down to the brain-frying activity writing two books this year. They each contained mountains of nouns, many of them scary if not dangerous. That must be what's edging them out. But seriously, what's his excuse? Oh well, it's not so bad, really. As long as our verbs don't start to, you know … um.

Mary Jane Maffini is the author of the Charlotte Adams mysteries and two Canadian series: the Ottawa-based Camilla MacPhee books and the Fiona Silk novels set in West Quebec. Her latest book, Law & Disorder, the sixth in the Camilla MacPhee series, is absolutely crawling with nouns. Verbs too.


  1. i have long believed that as we get into the upper age bracket, nouns are the first thing we lose

  2. I find that less sleep equals less nouns. :)