Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. I never heard this word before, but apparently my teenage daughter knows it well, having used it an essay she recently wrote and asked me to read.
“What is defenestration?” I asked her. Until then, I was not aware that throwing someone out the window had sparked two horrible wars two hundred years apart in the early days of Bohemia or that the word came from the Latin de- (out of or away from) and fenestra (window or opening). Thank you to my daughter and Wikipedia for this enlightening information.
I loved this fun new word, but I couldn’t remember it the next day. Or the next. Even when I repeated it aloud to myself numerous times, the word escaped my memory hours later. I know that my hearing loss sometimes makes it harder for me to remember new information (see my post on this here), but did it also make it harder to learn new words? Apparently so.
It makes sense. When it is harder to hear a word — especially a new or unusual one — there is so much processing that is happening in order to just hear it, there isn’t much capacity left over for writing that new word into memory.
After a few days of failure, I tried a new approach — attaching the various sounds within the new word to ones I already knew. “De” was simple on its own. “Fene” sounded like henna, which reminded me of a henna tattoo that my friend had gotten for her wedding. That left “stration” which is also in the word frustration. That was certainly easy to associate with this new word!
Almost immediately I could remember the word. Linking the sounds in defenestration to words that I already knew well had done the trick. To keep my memory fresh, I try to use the word in a sentence at least once a week. This can be a challenge, however, since I don’t spend too much time throwing things out of windows.
The next time I come across a new word or technical term, I will employ the same strategy — linking it to other words or sounds that I know well. Perhaps this would work for remembering people’s names too. That would certainly be a big help.
Readers, do you have trouble learning new or technical words?