A Limited And Expansive Vocabulary

Jan 15 2012 @ 2:48pm

The novelist Paul West suffered a stroke and lost most of his language. His recovery featured an unusual linguistic twist:

Oddly, it was often the most obscure words that were easiest to recover. He struggled with words like blanket or bed, or his wife's name Diane, words that you would think over time should have seeped into his genes. Nevertheless, he could recruit words like postillion or tardigrades to get an idea across.  …

Deprived of the usual routes to language, and along with them, the common clichés that many of us struggle to shed, West bestowed on his wife exquisite pet names such as: My Little Bucket of Hair; Commendatore de le Pavane Mistletoe; Dark-Eyed Junco, My Little Bunko; Diligent Apostle of Classic Stanzas. And at one point, the man uttered what has to be the most searingly romantic sentence ever uttered in history, by anyone, in any language:

"You are the hapax legomenon of my life."