- Do you commonly find yourself calling your children by the wrong name, and feel like kicking yourself for spending so much time selecting just the right name for each child?
- Do you find yourself saying to your child, "Sure, I know where you left your cookie." It's on the long white horizontal surface in the kitchen ... you know, the one with the thing we cook with on one end and the thing we put stuff into keep it cold on the other end? Um ... there's a sink in it?"
- Do you tell people on the phone that you'll be happy to take a message, just as soon as you find a "message-writing-down thingamabob?"
- In fact, do all the nouns in your vocabulary, nouns which have been your friends and companions since you were two years old, suddenly become "thingies" when you are under pressure? You may be suffering from deficient noun disease.
Deficient Noun Disease (DND) is a common affliction among mothers of small children (older children too). While not a dangerous illness, DND is an exasperating and frustrating one which increases in severity in direct proportion to the number of children in the household.
Common symptoms of DND include the following: Calling children by each other's names, forgetting the proper names for common household objects, and casually referring to other adults not as "John and Jane" but as "those people with the pool who barbecue every Friday." Another common symptom is the frequent use of the WRONG noun in a given situation, rather like mild aphasia. Someone with this particular type of DND might say, "Put your plate on the stove ... I mean on the counter ... I mean ON THE TABLE!"
A less common symptom displayed by some DND sufferers is an ailment also referred to as the "Crossword" Syndrome. With this particular type of DND-related illness, the affected person might declare, "Oh, yes, I know her name. Let's see ... it starts with an "S", has five letters ... ."
DND, although virtually untreatable and incurable, can still be endured with a minimum of pain and embarrassment if the afflicted person makes use of the following handy coping mechanisms:
- One method of coping with the disease involves the clever use of nicknames, which can easily apply to any individual in the family, like "Dear" or "Sweetheart". This method breaks down when the DND sufferer is faced with the necessity of differentiating between individuals, or when she is talking to several people at one time, so the use of group nicknames, like referring to everyone in the room as "Y'all", a common Southern coping mechanism, is recommended.
- Another good way to conceal DND from your friends and family members is to develop the habit of pausing in your sentences when reaching a crucial noun. If the pause is long enough, the other individual will attempt to guess the noun for you, and you need only respond in the affirmative when the correct noun is reached. Although this method may take time, it certainly adds suspense to an otherwise ordinary conversation.
The information available on DND is still patchy and incomplete, due to the unnecessary shame felt by many mothers who do not realize that this illness is widespread and quite common. Very few mothers are able to call their children by name, and it is difficult for them to believe that the time invested in picking out those names was, to put it bluntly, wasted. When education has removed the stigma from the minds of all women, this disease might very well be shown to be the most common affliction in human history.
The cause of DND is not yet known; some scientists believe that using a word over 100,000 times in the course of a lifetime may simply fade that word from long-term memory; mothers simply reach the lifetime limit earlier because they must repeat themselves so often. Other scientists hold up the two-year old child as proof positive that the repetition of a word more than 100,000 times (in this case, the word Mommy) does not cause selective noun amnesia.
Although modern science may never be able to cure DND or discover what exactly causes it, we as mothers and fellow sufferers can still help one another to recognize the illness and learn to live in harmony with it. The next time you hear yourself shouting, "Claudia - Cody - Betsy - Logan - Jill ... You Know Who You Are! Get in Here!", you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that mothers all over the world are doing the same thing.