Oblivescence – Friday’s Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day at dictionary.com is oblivescence which means: forgetting; state of being forgotten; the condition or fact of failing to remember or having failed to remember or of being absent-minded.

According to dictionary.com,
Oblivescence dates from the late 19th century and is a later spelling of obliviscence, which dates from the late 18th century. The spelling oblivescence arose by influence of the far more common suffix -escence. The English noun is a derivative of the Latin verb oblīviscī “to forget,” literally “to wipe away, smooth over.” The Latin verb is composed of the prefix ob- “away, against” and the same root as the adjective lēvis “smooth.”

There are a number of references to this word in psychology that deal with memory. Oblivescence is a theory described as a means of self-preservation in our propensity to forget the disagreeable things we have experienced while preserving the pleasurable aspects of the same event.

Until I learned this word I never thought much about it, but how true it is. Upon meeting their newborn baby, many mothers completely forget the pain of labor. Holidays and family gatherings in the past are remembered only as happy occasions and completely forgotten are family tensions and arguments that may have erupted at the very same event. Memories of a loved one, now passed away become more and more positive as the years go by and we slowly forget the things about them that drove us batty. Interestingly, this phenomenon seems to happen unconsciously. It is not the same thing as having selective memories of a person, place or thing.

As I often do, I found a fun reference to this word in modern times. There is a spell or charm in the Harry Potter series as explained in this reference index excerpt:

oblivescence

The process of forgetting.

obliviate

A memory charm or spell in the Harry Potter books that makes someone forget.

obliviator

The act of memory modification which can be used by any wizard, by using the spell, “Obliviate” as described in the fictional universe of the Harry Potter series as written by J.K. Rowling.

An Obliviator is the designation for a Ministry of Magic employee who has the task of modifying the memory of a Muggle after witnessing incidents belonging to the magic world.

A Muggle is a term, sometimes used in a pejorative manner, from the fictional Harry Potter series of books that refers to a human who is a member of the non-magical community.

Here’s a wiki-link for the various occasions when this spell was used.

I often wonder why I remember some things and not others (which I am only reminded of through the recollections of others). Now I have a word for it. It’s as if random years of my life have been erased like they never happened. I suppose that is why the memories I have retained are so precious.

barely a feeling
fading to oblivescence
days of loving you

~kat


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