The great comedian Carl Reiner once gave a memorable lecture -- gag fest, really -- that my husband and I attended and have never forgotten.
He joked about the issue of name recall as you get to a certain age. The problem, he said, isn't that you lose the name. It just takes longer to find it in the encyclopedias of information you've stored.
So, he said, when a name is slow in coming to him, he substitutes the word "salami."
As in, "I bumped into… salami.. at the deli the other day." Or, "I'm reading a really great book by… salami."
Since then, my husband and I shout out "salami" and laugh when the wurst thing happens and don't feel so bad about any slippage.
But now, the New York Times reports that Reiner might be right on pepperoni. Our brains are just too stuffed.
"The larger the library you have in your head, the longer it usually takes to find a particular word," it reports of a study on word retrieval.
Published in Topics in Cognitive Science, the study talks about two kinds of intelligence -- "fluid" intelligence, which "includes short-term memory, like holding a phone number in mind, analytical reasoning, and the ability to tune out distractions, like ambient conversation," according to the Times article. And "crystallized" intelligence, which is "accumulated knowledge, vocabulary and expertise."
What really may be happening as you age is that "crystallized" intelligence accumulates to the point where there's less room for "fluid" intelligence.
"Crystallized knowledge (as measured by New York Times crosswords, for example) climbs sharply between ages 20 and 50 and then plateaus, even as the fluid kind (like analytical reasoning) is dropping steadily — by more than 50 percent between ages 20 and 70 in some studies," the Times reports.
To me, that "crystallized" knowledge sounds a lot like "wisdom" -- the kind of contribution that elders could make to the workplace, our communities and to our families.
Ah, if only they would listen. ...