Receptive aphasia

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Receptive aphasia, also known as Wernicke's aphasia, excessively verbose aphasia, or downright annoying aphasia, is quite possibly the most irritating speech disorder ever. It's not that they can't talk. They can. That's exactly the problem, in fact, because not only can they talk, they can talk a lot, to the point where they usually won't shut up. Ask them a question, and pow, open the floodgates of babble, and I mean babble, here. It's all nonsense. Chances are they won't have understood the question, and chances are they won't be using any of the right words, and it's pretty much a given that you won't have any idea what they're talking about. "Yes, yes, that's it. This is that and that and you know how that is. I'm a dentist." What?

But as if that weren't bad enough, they don't even realize there's something wrong. They think they're just fine, and when they can fathom that they're here, they can't even fathom why, inquiring "What am I coming in this beet grinder?" and the like. Really, 'beet grinder'? One of them asked me that once, and as if that weren't clue enough; the guy was completely oblivious. And he was one of the better ones. Didn't have that many other problems, at least. Could dress himself. Have you any idea how few patients here can dress themselves? I suppose I should be grateful since it gives me a job that ain't janitorial, but yeesh, that's depressing.

I'm not even kidding.

Doctors... look at her. She's trying to understand, but she can't make out a smidge of it.

Here. I'll show you how fluent they are. It's like they're speaking another language and yet using words that just happen to correspond with english ones, except when they don't. Unless 'flargle' and 'bloop' are words now - and given that 'google' and 'wiki' are apparently words these days, they may well be, but still.

Anyway, some of them doctors transcribed their chats[1] for God knows why:

Doctor: Can you tell me what your name is?

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Woman: No, I don't I - right I'm right now here.

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Doctor: What is your address?

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Woman: I cud if I can help these this like you know - to make it. We are seeing for him. That is my father.

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Doctor: What kind of work did you do before you came to the hospital?

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Woman: Never, now Mista Oyge I wanna tell you this happened when happened when he rent. His-his kell come down here and is - he got ren something. It happened. In these ropiers were with him for hi-is friend - like was. And it just happened so I don't know. He did not bring around anything. And he did not pay it. And he roden all o these arranjen from the pedis on from iss pescid. In these floors now and so. He hasn't had them round here.

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Doctor: Can you tell me a little bit about why you are in the hospital?

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Woman: No, I don't think I have... no, I haven't.

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Doctor: Can you tell me what you see going on in this picture? [A drawing of children flying a kite]

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Woman: No, I can uh take him. Uh. I haven't read 'em anybody to right in there. That's the little girl there.

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Doctor: Anything else? What do you see over here?

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Woman: No. [pause] I really had pays too. Inte van gup. Here ee little boy being read, too. There he's being there on the ceiling there.

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They have problems.

Two main problems, generally. The first one, and this is the less annoying by far, is that they often just don't understand things. Say something to them, and they'll think you said something else. Yeah, okay, sure; I have the same problem with my mom, but it doesn't get in the way of us having dinner together every Saturday. I just have no idea what she's talking about because she's obsessed with bridge and I've never played it in my life, and she always thinks I'm asking about bridge when I ask her about anything because she's completely obsessed with bridge. I try to break off her enthusiastic retelling about her wonderful hand the other night but all I can think to bring up is that my attic's still infested with squirrels, which doesn't go very far, so it doesn't take her very long to get back to telling me about the order of her jacks or some such. She's not aphasic, though. She's just weird. Or at least obsessed with bridge.

The other problems, and the ones that differentiate the aphasic from Mom, involve the words themselves. They make up words, replace words with other words, and don't notice anything is wrong. Mom notices; she just doesn't care due to her enthusiasm about bridge. So it's different.

It gets worse.

You know how I said they didn't even realize there was something wrong? While they don't realise there's anything wrong with them, some of them are still cognizant enough to tell when someone's being rude to them. Play their little games and talk nonsense at them all you like and chances are they won't catch on, but brush them off and suddenly you have a hurt aphasiac on your back, following you around insisting various somethings that even they probably don't know what they are, but the point is, they're insistent. It's like having a really persistent foreigner following you around demanding you give them directions to the Large Cloud, except you can't even duck into the first lingerie shop you find in an attempt to embarrass them off your back.

But of course it gets even worse than that, because you know what causes this stuff? Brain damage, what else? And since when is brain damage kind enough to just hit one part of the brain? I'll give you a hint: It's not.[2] Ever. Even if it were, that probably wouldn't be enough to cause this sort of confusion, because these people are really messed up. I've seen plenty of stroke victims still be fine, even missing (small) chunks of their brains, but these? Oh boy.

Woodrow Wilson - evidently an asshole, and do you see him using that one arm of his? Of course not; he had brain damage.

They just have brain damage.

So aphasia aside, these patients will have all sorts of problems. Maybe they can't see. Or maybe they won't see everything on the left. But they think they do. They always think they're fine, but if any of these got out on the road, it would probably become abundantly clear quite quickly that no, they're not. Not to them, of course; the worse vehicular accidents often don't leave folks lived in any state to be cognizant of anything, even if they do survive, but you know what I mean. At least everyone else will have figured it out by then. If they're still alive.

Suppose the patient can see, there'll still be something. Maybe a tick, or seizures, if it's a transmission problem, or maybe they can't put together what's what around them, or move properly, or maybe they'll just have the most annoying personalities you ever did see. Like Woodrow Wilson - apparently he was a complete asshat, and it was all caused by a stroke. Not an aphasiac, but just like some of the folks here other than that, and frankly it probably would have been a boon for all of us had the matter involved aphasia for him, because then it would have been obvious that there really was something wrong. And then we wouldn't have had an asshat for a president. Asshats make the worst presidents, and Mom tells me they make terrible bridge players, too, but I wouldn't know about that.

Brain damage is annoying.

Some of them can't even read, either. Well, actually, most of them can't read, same problem as with their verbal comprehension, but these can't even figure out what a single word is, or even recognise that it is a word. One of them decided to read a newspaper aloud once and said, "Blob blob blob, blob blob. Blob." I don't think she was joking. Others, though, they can't remember a thing. Sometimes it's backwards memory - can't remember who they are or anything, which is annoying enough, but worse is when they won't form new memories. Sure, this means you can insult them over and over again and they won't remember it afterwards, but this means you wind up insulting them over and over again and every time you wind up with an insulted insistent-sounding aphasiac following you around pestering the b'jesus out of you like it's the first time it's ever happened. Every time.

But really, brain damage sucks. Receptive aphasia sucks, too, just more for everyone else than the folks that got it. Now those with expressive aphasia, that's pretty much the opposite. They still can't speak properly, of course, but instead of saying too much, they'll hardly say anything, and they do know there's something wrong. Get very frustrated at times, too. I know I would. But I'd still rather have that, really. Remain at least cognizant of what's going on, you know?

And I also don't want to sound like a beet grinder.


  1. Actually, I got this one from a book. Some 'Psychology & evolution' title by a guy named Bridgeman... I'm certainly not about to go around spending extra effort over the folks here, but you get the idea.
  2. I asked a guy. He had expensive shoes and worked in the Institute, so I expect he knew what he was talking about.

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