Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What's in a name?

There’s something that I’ve always struggled with and that’s naming things by their proper name. This has disappeared more and more over the years, since I have started to learn more and more names of things, but was the worst when I was young. What exactly do I mean with this? Allow me to explain.

When I was still in primary school, my parents used to make me my sandwiches, as is normal for most children in primary school. They would ask me what I wanted on my sandwich and I would often say “Sausage”. Of course the next logical question (if you have more types than one in your fridge) would be “What kind of sausage?” This question always caused trouble for me. “I don’t know… The thin sliced one which I always like with some mustard…” would be a normal answer for me. My parents would immediately know what I meant and correct me with the right word. I could never remember the word, so eventually I would just dismiss it and wonder why “The thin sliced ones” couldn’t just be enough. They knew what I meant right? (for the Dutch people, since I don’t know the English word: This was ‘Palingworst’)

At some point my parents introduced a new kind of sausage. They had me try it and I simply LOVED it! Add some mustard (yes, I love mustard on the sausages I put on bread) and it’s pure heaven. Later they asked me again what I wanted on my bread and I replied with “That tasty sausage.” My parents were, of course, completely confused. I mean, I now had two kinds of sausages that I thought were tasty, so what did I mean? I told them they had me try something and I loved it more than the first sausage and that I meant that one. After a few seconds of thinking they finally understood what I meant. They showed me the sausage and I happily nodded. They corrected me, again, with the right word for it and put it on my sandwich. Again, I couldn’t remember it and started calling it ‘Tasty sausage”. (in Dutch: Lekkere worst) Up to this day I still can’t remember the word. I thought it was smoked sausage? No idea. All I know is that it’s tasty.

The same thing happened with a type of conditioner for under the shower. The first conditioner I ever used was a bit grey-ish. Not completely grey, which would look terrible, but just a slight shade darker than white. My parents tried to tell me that this was conditioner and I just thought it was a very difficult word for just another type of shampoo that simply did something else in my hair. After asking for shampoo a lot, when I meant the conditioner, and after having been corrected a lot, it ended up being called ‘The Grey”. (Dutch: De Grijze) This came to be after a lot of frustrated cry-outs to my parents like “Condi… Con… You know! That grey stuff! Just give me the Grey!”

This has always been very weird to me, since I’m great at learning new languages. I started reading in kindergarten and started reading English in 2nd grade (Groep 4). I was bored to death whenever anything came to reading. Except for when we had to do “Begrijpend Lezen”. I guess this could be translated to “Reading Comprehension”. This basically meant that we had to analyse the things we were reading and when we had to use a blank space and all those kind of things. This took a long time for me to pick up. There are no straight rules for this, which got me all confused at times.

So then, why do I have trouble learning some words? There is a pattern though. It’s not just any random word that just won’t stick. It’s words that already have a category they fall under and suddenly have some weird exception to it. Fish isn’t just fish, but every fish has a name. Chairs aren’t just chairs, some chairs have name too (like: fauteuil… I thought it was?).

This was actually my first real clue to Autism, weird as it may sound. In 6th grade (groep 8) a child from my class, who has Autism, gave a presentation about Autism. He did this with his guidance counsellor helping him. At one point he tried to explain how people with Autism sometimes have trouble with just picking things up, which others just do without really thinking about it. The whole class was confused at this sentence, so the guidance counsellor stepped in and gave an easy-to-grasp example for the class to help understand it.

She held up a cup and simply told us that that was a cup. We all nodded. She told us that that may be logical and we all knew that, but that it wasn’t just any cup, but that we all know that it’s actually called a muck and that someone with Autism might just not pick that up as easily. This is where I first had my suspicion something was up. The whole class nodded at the notion that the cup was actually a muck. Instead, I made a quick mental note: “That’s a muck.”

I still have trouble understanding this quirk of mine. Why can I pick up languages so easily and even taught myself to read, but can’t I remember a few simple subcategories? One thing that I could think of, was the grey area. People have trouble understanding the so-called ‘grey area’ of things. In other words, things that aren’t as clear as you’d like them to be and can have a lot of exceptions. It might be that these subcategories are just too much in the grey area. You already learn the words for things and then you find out there are exceptions to it, which makes it have different names! Too much, too unnecessary (in my mind at least). This might be the answer.

So yea… If you ever wonder why, even after having studied for being a baker, I still can name so few baking goods… This is why. It’s not that I’m stupid. It’s just that it won’t stick. Bread is bread and at most it can be white and other shades of dark. If you want me to name them for the costumers, you better give me the words on a piece of paper, or I’ll be at a loss.


  1. Found it! This is "Tasty sausage". http://eviewer.netmedia-europe.be/cache/server?type=image&source=promofolder_nl%2Fn_supbor%2Factive%2F%2Fn_supbor018n0000009.jpg&width=275

    1. Appearantly that doesn't create a link... I hope this works better and otherwise you can copy-paste it into your url bar: http://tinyurl.com/bo9oprm