The other day on a walk I yelled for one of my dogs.
“Monty!” I went. She ignored me, probably because she is called Coco. I have never done this before. Yes, I have certainly called her Sasha and Juno, which are the names of my other two dogs, but never Monty, who is my mother’s dog and lives 10 000km away.
I’d have to yell a whole lot louder for him to hear me. However, as at the time I was with my mum – she’s on holiday with me – and I have walked Monty many times with her, perhaps this was a natural slip.
As natural as early Alzheimer’s even … I worry because I do this sort of thing with my kids all the time, muddling their names, and on occasion I’ve called them by my dogs’ names.
When they complain, I remind them that my pets are my children too, although they don’t give me nearly as much cheek. But recently I made the biggest name slip faux pas of all: I called my friend’s not-so-new fella by her ex-husband’s name. Colin/Corné, anyone could confuse them, right? RIGHT?
Then I worried that my brain was genuinely starting to fail. However, for all those nodding along, going “same, girl, same,” I am here to spread good cheer. Apparently, this is totally normal.
According to a study called “All My Children” our very clever brains file things in clusters based on association, so when we’re reaching for the name of one of our offspring (or indeed pets) we only need access a single file, and not rifle through the names of everyone we’ve ever known.
So those who my brain feels I need to care for – dogs and kids, chiefly – will be lodged in the child file, and sometimes when I’m tired, distracted, rushing, or even happily idle, I’ll get it wrong.
Equally “dog-walking with Mum” and “Monty” are grouped together, confusing as this may be for Coco. I guess this may also be why we forget familiar names when they’re out of context – spotting a colleague in Woolworths on a Saturday, say.
And of course my friend’s lovely chap is simply filed in my brain where her particular men go, which is unfortunately in the same place as her wayward ex. He only really needs to fret if I start calling him Paul, Joe, Tom, Dick or Harry. Or, indeed, if she does.