I love to observe all the ingenious ways that my brain processes language, especially the unconscious ones. One thing I find fascinating is that my brain memorizes words by their sound as much as by their meaning. I often formulate sentences where I think of a word based on its sound, but it’s not the right word. I’m always getting these fuzzy results in terms of how a word sounds and then I need to research the right word by trying to think of similar sounding words. (See end note for disclaimer on writing in the first person here).

Just now something else happened. I just formulated the sentence “Having brideless power is all they care about.”

“That doesn’t sound right,” I thought. So I googled “brideless” and confirmed that it refers to not having a bride (a woman to marry). Then I googled my own brain and the word “unbridled” surfaced. Aha! “Unbridled,” that’s what I wanted.

So my brain first gave me a word with the root “bride” when actually I wanted “bridled.” The two roots are very similar in sound – but I didn’t want merely bridled, I wanted a word that negated bridled (restricted). What did my brain do? It gave me a word where a “less” has been applied to bride, that is, something without a bride (brideless), or un-brided.

For fun, I looked up the etymology of both words. Now it just so happens that bride, aside from the marriage connotation, also means a tie, although I wouldn’t have known that without seeing it in a sentence with proper contextual information. It’s like those meanings that aren’t actively known, they remain very, very buried. That was a coincidence all in itself.

But the fact that my brain processed the “bride” with the “less” when I was searching for “un-bridled” is the cool part. It didn’t just give me a word that was similar in sound to “unbridled” but it applied the (mathematical) operation of negation to bride and gave me “brideless.”

“With compliments from your brain language processor,” said my brain.

“Thank you, that was smart,” I replied.

Now don’t get me wrong. Even though I wrote the above in the first person, I’m not saying that only my brain does any of this (ha!), but just that I love watching it doing it. It’s fascinating. And it’s the only brain I can watch from the inside out. 😉


Update – my brain is on a roll today…

So, here I was trying to figure out how to program this two-hour walk followed by a lunch at a restaurant (both itinerary and final restaurant). I was thinking of all these options, starting around 10:30 am to finish at the restaurant around 12:30 or 1:00 pm.

Then I thought that I would much prefer to schedule the walk in the afternoon. But I also wanted lunch after the walk. Immediately, my brain produced this mental image of an daily planner page (each line is an hour) and a two-hour block filled in from about 1pm to 3pm for the walk. Now here comes the fun part: there was a curved arrow from the 3:00 pm time going down to the 12:00 pm line, as if we could walk back in time and then have lunch. See? Problem solved. Too cool.

I wasn’t even trying to visualize anything… I wasn’t even thinking about going back in time. The thought was not “mine.” My brain did that in a split second, all on its own.

My brain: “Here’s my solution. Just trying to help.”

“Thank you, that was very nice. Unfortunately I still don’t know how to go back in time, but it would have been a lovely way to arrange things.”