Daily Archives: March 24, 2007

Things there should be words for.


I recently got in the mail the dictionary of Laádan. Laádan is a constructed language that is supposed to be suited to communicating the experiences of women in particular, and also just has a lot of cool words, like doĆ³lelasholan (alone at last, after putting up with tiresome people). I had heard that autistic people were trying to construct a language for autistic experiences, but have little to contribute to that: if such a language is constructed, I don’t expect to be able to learn to speak it.

There are, however, a number of experiences (not all peculiar to being autistic, but certainly prominent for many of us) that I really wish could have a simple word or phrase for them. The problem is I have a lot of preferences for these things. Most out-and-out neologisms, words coined out of nowhere, are not my preference. Nor are words (even words like “conlang” for “constructed language”, which I use grudgingly) that sound jargonny and out of place. Nor are words that sound clinical, medical, psychiatric, or excessively long and Greek (it’s usually Greek that comes up with awful words like “monotropic”). Short, ordinary-sounding phrases are more my thing, just novel combinations of words that sound like they could easily go together, but usually don’t. (Given that I’d expect to use these words on a regular basis for actual communication with everyday people, who aren’t likely to learn any of the other things any more than I am.)

I started making this list while I was crashed and sick after the CNN thing. It’s nowhere near complete, and there are a number of things I want to add to it. But here’s what I’ve got so far:

The way things look when they look detailed, sharp, and intricately beautiful, but you know that even an ounce more stimulation will make them sharper and jagged and painful.

The high-pitched buzzing and humming in one’s head that can go with overload.

The point at which language cannot be overloading because it’s not processed as language.

The point at which the meaning of language cannot be understood, but the brain reacts to all language and symbol by trying to decipher it, and failing, generating intense amounts of pain whenever exposed to it.

The state of being able to write but unable to read, and therefore unable to check over what you’re writing to see if it makes sense or not. (May feel like you’re not making sense even if you are.)

A piece of trivia remembered at random at a time when nothing else or little else makes sense (example from my own life: not knowing what a brain was and unable to understand that anything I wasn’t directly perceiving could still exist, but automatically and randomly identifying a particular handshake as Masonic).

The only object in the world at a particular moment that makes sense.

Knowledge that has remained dormant and the person was unaware of it, until the moment it was triggered.

The state of being able to come up with a complex idea, but fully aware that if one actually moves in order to write, the brain will be too busy with the movements and extra perceptions involved to be able to write down and/or translate the actual thoughts.

An ability which seems to spring from nowhere, and possibly to vanish back to nowhere.

Being asked a question, and knowing that the answer is stored somewhere in your brain, but being unable or barely able to answer it.

The kind of person who, upon entering a room, makes communication impossible or distorted.

The knowledge that everything you’re perceiving is extremely detailed but that you’ll forget most of it later.

The vivid sensory echoes of things that have been perceived throughout the day, that flash unwillingly and unstoppably and “as if real” throughout one’s head when overload yet given half a chance to rest, and that may be so real-seeming as to be highly confusing until it’s over.

The experience of finding only one person in a roomful of people whose body language you can immediately and thoroughly read, usually because that other person happens to share your neurotype.

The distortions that come into an action through the application of conscious effort/thought.

The grace, smoothness, and accuracy of an action arrived at through triggering automatic words or movements without the interference of conscious/symbolic thought.

An inaccurate answer given not wit the intent to deceive, but because under real or imagined pressure, one can only come up with an answer that sounds plausible, but is unable to verify whether the answer is correct. (For instance, a friend of mine saying that she has “absolutely no learning disabilities” when asked if she had learning disabilities, when in fact she was known at that point to be dyscalculic.)

A plausible-sounding pattern of words put out in response to another set of words, more by pattern-matching than communication.

The ability to say words you don’t actually understand (in more jargony terms, when your expressive language seems to be better than your receptive, because you’ve memorized so many chunks of word without necessarily the meaning).

A gesture or word that you use for an extremely large number of things and honestly expect or wish people would be able to tell the difference.