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A frustrated woman trying to articulate words that are locked inside her head.

Fumbling Word Vomit

I know it’s been a while since I’ve been able to actually sit down and write an article. Life happens, and there never seems to be enough time or energy in the day for me to do the things that I want to do.

I recently had an experience that I wanted to touch base on; it wasn’t the first time it’s happened, but I finally remembered to write it down to remember the topic I wanted to discuss. It’s a ‘symptom’ of Multiple Sclerosis, to me anyway, that I have dubbed “Fumbling Word Vomit”.

Ashley’s definition of Fumbling Word Vomit

When your brain doesn’t cooperate with your mouth to get the words out that you want to say, so you start saying words that you think might work but actually make NO sense at all.

Why do I do this? Because it’s embarrassing in certain situations when I’m trying to say something but can’t get the dang word out of my mouth, so I get frustrated and just spit something out and hope for the best! *Fingers and toes crossed – if you can feel them.* 

What’s really frustrating is when I’m having a discussion about a certain subject that I’m highly knowledgeable about. I have all the correct information in my head; it all makes sense to me. But voicing it at times makes it look like I have absolutely NO idea of what I’m talking about. So, those people that don’t know my MS struggles think I’m a wannabe know-it-all when really I’m just having some MS issues.

Anger and frustration from the cog-fog

There have been times when I’ve had explosive fumbling word vomit, then proceeded to curse up a storm directly after, out loud, because of my frustration. Again, those that don’t know the cognitive issues that I struggle with probably think that I’m a wannabe with anger issues. Dealing with cog-fog is beyond frustrating and so upsetting.

At that time, I am angry! I’m angry that my brain won’t cooperate when I need it to. It angers me that I have to even deal with this. I’m angry because I literally have the information right there, but the words are stuck in a soundproof box and can’t be heard.

We have to deal with this on a regular basis

I also know that many people deal with this issue who don’t have multiple sclerosis or another disease that affects them the same way cognitively. The difference is how often it happens and that we know it’s not just something random going on with our heads. This is something that we have to deal with on a regular basis.

I try so hard, and I do succeed most of the time, to not let things bother me or upset me. However, it seems that multiple things happen back-to-back that get me to the point of complete frustration at myself, the situation, and this illness that I battle every single day and try to use every weapon possible to battle it and come out on top.

You’re not alone in dealing with weird symptoms

The entire purpose of me sharing my experience on this is for those who are living with this illness to know that they aren’t alone in the random, annoying, weird things that happen to them.

Also, for those who have a loved one living with this illness, this is so you can better understand what we’re going through in my odd/crazy/random explanations.

Finally, this is for the random person who reads things and has been on the receiving end of fumbling word vomit: Sorry, our brains were apparently on vacation without us.

Until next time – I hope it doesn’t take me so long to write again; this is like therapy to me.

xoxo

Ashley Ringstaff

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Rocket Man
    1 month ago

    Ashley you hit the nail on the head with your comments. I’ve had MS for the last 27 years. When I’m around people I know I feel very comfortable. Unfortunately I’m not in that situation as often as I would like to be. I know what I want to say but the words don’t come of me as I would like. This happens more times than I would like, I would be in the middle of talking, either I forgot what I wanted to say and I have stand with my mouth open and saying nothing. I’ve be married 48 years and my wife usually fills in the blanks. One final thing, when I send texts I know what I want to say and then I read my text before sending and i’m missing words. Thanks for letting me vent.

  • itasara
    2 months ago

    I relate. I don’t know if it is just who I am or if it is MS or if it is getting older, but I don’t always describe what I want to say that makes total sense to someone else or I come out with the wrong word.. It’s hurtful that my daughter visiting is critical of my disorganization and how I explain things verbally, my husband says well she used to be a lot more organized but she changed. And he doest’t stand up for me. Really he is a good guy but it is hurtful. My daughter says my paper disorganization hanging around it inconsiderate to my husband. But he doest’t help me either deciding on what we need to keep and what we need to get rid of. I do have an office but that is also a catchall room right now. But his organization on his desk is nothing to give out neat awards for.. I agree I have too much stuff hanging around but I get to it when I can. Can I just blame this all on MS? I really don’t know.

  • MaryEB
    2 months ago

    Trying to explain my symptoms is frustrating enough but when words fail it’s a double whammy. I was beginning to think I was developing Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. I had given up trying to explain the numerous issues that come with MS, I felt like I was always complaining, though I fumble for words and usually end up inaccurately describing my problem anyway. So I’m faced with trying to express myself or just being quiet. That leads to a whole other kind of isolation.

    I guess I just need to weigh my options and decide if I really want to engage in a choppy, exhausting and often frustrating conversation.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @MaryEB, I hear your frustration. Please know there is always understanding here. Have you looked into Peer Support Connections and Peer-to-Peer Support to connect with a support system, in your area, who understands? You can also try the Peer Support Line:: 1-866-673-7426. I hope that helps, and we’re always here to listen. -Warmly, Donna (MultipleSclerosis.net team)

  • TerryJ
    2 months ago

    Ashley Ringstaff, Thank you for your article. I have Muscular dystrophy, I saw the title of your article which made me join the Multiple Sclerosis.net It seems even though they’re two separate diseases; they share some of the same symptoms. Encouragement is the key to retaining your sanity and a chuckle here and there is always needed.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @TerryJ, thanks so much for sharing. The two definitely share some similar symptoms and I’m glad Ashley’s article was helpful. And I agree – laughter can be such great medicine. Thanks for reaching out here! – Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • TerryJ
    2 months ago

    I have OPMD (muscular dystrophy). I have the same cog-fog. I get very frustrated because I know what I’m trying to say; it just won’t come out. People who know you, know that you’re intelligent and that this is a part of your life now. You must always remember: NEVER GIVE UP.

  • allinjay
    2 months ago

    Well I certainly agree with y’all. I’m gonna add my additional symptom which is ANOTHER GIFT FROM THE MS GODS. In addition to the “fumbling word vomit” which I had for at least 7 years, I’ve developed a mind bending speech problem of CONSTANT STUTTERING!!! I’m 72 with SPMS times 35years and my stuttering has had a profound impact on my life. My wonderful ability of public speaking is GONE FOREVER. I am now a recluse and refuse to engage in conversation with ALL my family and friends.
    I would gladly return to “fumbling word vomit”
    My wish for ALL of you is to NEVER EVER begin stuttering.
    Stay strong and love all

  • Drcuervo
    2 months ago

    Thanks for posting this, I thought I was the only one with a similar experience. I had to explain to a friend yesterday that I’m speaking much slower now because, otherwise, I sound drunk.
    And I have not touched any booze

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @drcuervo, that’s an accusation that, unfortunately, many others here have also been mistaken with. Here’s another article that dives a little more deeply into speech issues that may be helpful for you: https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/mouth-dont-speak-smoothly-anymore/ You are definitely not alone here and we so appreciate you taking the time to comment!

    Best, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Drcuervo
    2 months ago

    Graçias for the link. Will look at it ASAP ^_^

  • allottaknots
    2 months ago

    I have been experiencing “Babble Barf” for a few years now, though in hindsight, it began slowly many years earlier. I feel “locked” inside my head… all my EVERYTHING is stuck in there and ends up coming out all stilted or what I call the “babbling barf”. I have a fantastic vocabulary but when trying to say the word “dime” as in the coin, I’m frantically searching the landscape inside my head and what ends up coming out is “that ten cent thingie that’s made up of ten pennies” …. and then a string of swear words. (I ALWAYS remember the swear words.) …. Brevity is not a familiar trait anymore, as it takes me a very long time to get to my main point, or to answer a question… “a very long walk for a short drink of water.” …. And lots and lots of swearing. 😀

  • Adoll76
    2 months ago

    Thank you for this awesome article! This is me to the T! I hate that we all go thru this but, it makes me feel better knowing there is alot more people that struggle with the same crap lol! Take care

  • Bayoubaby
    2 months ago

    I was raised in the 50s, and there was no TV on Sun-Thur. So we 3 kids read…a lot. I read the Encyclopedia by 5th grade, had an vocabulary that we as legendary. In college, I won Trivial Pursuit so much no one would play me….I read shampoo bottles and fine pront. My grasp of English (and Spanish) was what I was known for.
    So imagine when my vocab is peppered with um, uh, do-de-oh…..
    The frustration changes my attitude towards sparring verbally. People asked me to speak at public meetings on important issues. No ow I run screaming (gibberish).
    But my word retrieval is weird.
    Motor becomes move.
    Travel= trip
    Sound, mean, look similar. But that short slide down neurons to mouth, we hit a speed bump.

    I hope it doesn’t get much worse. It’ll be googoo Gaga
    Strangers already think I’m a drug addict-between my twitching and body jerking and slight slurs. Why do people judge so quickly?

    I’ve had MS for a decade, just diagnosed, SPMS, so symptoms are pronounced. MDs mistook it for fibro, and tardive dyskenesia. And faking, exaggerating and opioid seeking (I was forced off after 11 years of compliance and low dose), also denied my Klonopin and Flexeril.
    More anger, pain, depression….I don’t know if I’m gonna be up to this. I’m 66, very few days are productive, or creative or spent with my kids and friends.
    Too much. Thanks

  • GmaJo9
    2 months ago

    I get it! Sometimes I have to play the “you know…insert gestures if necessary…trying to find the word for person, place or thing that should be obvious but is utterly gone. I tend to suffer from sensory overload and when overwhelmed I just can’t get anything coherent out.

    Some days or times I can carry on highly intelligent conversations and the next, not so much! In fact, I just typed in another word for intelligent and rereading it realized that wasn’t the word I wanted at all!

  • Adoll76
    2 months ago

    Totally me with the…you know gestures…or what is it! Drives me bananas!

  • fremkiewicz
    2 months ago

    Permit me to share a compounding issue. Kathryn, my spouse, has SPMS and the cog-fog happens from time to time. I have a traumatic brain injury creating a pre-dementia brain problem which creates cog-fog as well. So, when we both suffer from this at the same time it becomes a little like Abbott and Costello’s “who is on first” routine.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    2 months ago

    Hahaha @fremkiewicz! I know that must be so frustrating sometimes, but I hope, like the joke, it generates some laughs and amusing moments, too. Thanks so much for sharing! – Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • msisme12
    2 months ago

    Wow, how timely! You are so not alone! This past weekend was my 40th HS reunion ()!! First of all, it was humid as hell, so that didn’t help. Then I had to remember some people that I hadn’t seen since HS. Trying to keep all of that together and then having conversations got a bit tough! Thank God my husband was there too and he sees when I am having problems. All in all, it was wonderful to be out and with friends!

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hey!
    I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Also glad to hear you had a good time at your reunion!

    I know it can be really overwhelming when there is so much going on at one time.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Moderator/Author

  • Lily
    2 months ago

    I can so relate!
    Just this past week, I was telling a friend about the sunscreen I was using, saying how it gives me SUV protection.
    She asked if I was referring to UV protection? And if I knew that an SUV was a car?
    Sometimes life is just too funny!!

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    OMG! I can totally relate to this. There are times I really don’t realize that I fumbled on words until someone points it out.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • potter
    2 months ago

    I am slow at getting my words out of my mouth, I haven’t had any problems with the wrong words. If I am in a group of people having a conversations someone else starts speaking or another topic has been started before I can speak. It is very frustrating, I find excuses not to go to big events. I have trouble typing the wrong words when I am composing a e-mail. I have to recheck my posts several times before I push send.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh man I know how frustrating it is when the conversation flows WAY too quickly. It’s like you were trying to digest what was said so you can respond, then there already off to another subject.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Aggie4Christ
    2 months ago

    My husband calls this word “play” porky pig language. I think I like vomit more. I don’t stutter when I’m going through my list of words. ( it took me 2 minutes to get the word list there’s another word that is more appropriate but dang it won’t come)(wait for 25 minutes when I’m on to something not related and it will pop out of my mouth)(sometimes the worst of time and most embarrassing moment)

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh yes!!! I do stutter at times but it really depends on the situation. I’m not as nervous when speaking when I’m around those close to me. But they are so used to my fumbling word vomit now it’s no big deal.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Tomboy59
    2 months ago

    Yes I have this problem quite often. It’s frustrating its embarrassing and its depressing. About a month ago I was in a minor car accident. A pickup truck pulling a wide trailer with a bobcat on it clipped the side of my SUV. It blew out the front tire. There was no issue with driver of truck. We started exchanging papers. Then a cop pulls up with lights on. Cause of flat. I had already called AAA to replace tire. They said they would be there in 15 mins. Well the cop called for a tow also cause it was a main street. So it became kind of intense both waiting to see who came first. Believe it or not. They both arrived at same time. So I’m trying to talk to cop to stop him from towing car cause AAA was there. Well the words I was trying to say to cop just weren’t coming out the way I wanted. What I was saying was pissing him off. That’s not what I wanted. I’m trying so hard to have him allow AAA to just change the tire. Not tow the car. As I kept talking. I kept digging a hole. But I had no intentions of berating him or anything like that. I just wanted the tire fixed so I could go on my way. Finally he allowed them to change tire. The tow truck driver says to me. Your lucky. That cop just saved you $100. Well I guess I didnt show my appreciation enough. But I was kind of confused to how he saved me money. My tow company was there. Well I walked over to cop and thanked him and tried to talk to him. And he started going off on me about how I and others dont respect him and law enforcement. I’m like what. How can you say that. My God. I respect law enforcement and all offices that serve the public. He gets in his car and just sits there. Well my car was just about done so I walked over to the cruiser just to say thank you. Well again my words just weren’t coming out as I wanted. I was upset with myself because I’m trying to explain to this cop that I respect him and all law enforcement for what they do. It’s such a screwed up world out there. But my words again just didnt seem to fit in what I really was trying to say. So I just walked away. Got in my car and drove away. I had such a feeling of guilt. But I shouldn’t have. Everything I tried to say to him was all on a positive level. Didnt mean anything negative. So for a month now I’m carrying around a guilty feeling. I’ve been tempted to write a letter to the officer and drop it off at police station. And just try and explain. I have M.S. and sometimes. When I talk. The words come out garbled. I didnt mean any disrespect to him that day. So I’ve been fighting with myself to weather to write the letter. Or just get on with life. Again. I’m confused. Any suggestions. please. Thanks, tom

  • GmaJo9
    2 months ago

    Hi! I think writing the letter would be a good thing. You get it out of your mind and on paper. The officer may learn something about MS. You can clear the air and your conscience at the same time! Best wishes on whatever you decide.

  • cathymay55
    2 months ago

    I started experiencing this when I was still working as a Program Director for an Early Intervention and Preschool program. Everytime I would give a tour of our center I would always loose the word inclusive when describing the classrooms. I would start trying to describe what I was trying to say but felt like I was a babbling idiot. Sadly, I did go out on disability because of brain fatigue. I still struggle with cog fog but most people just think it’s age related. It is frustrating.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that! Brain fog is such a horrible thing to deal with. “You don’t get it, till you get it.” So I know how you feel with the frustration of it.

    Wishing you all the best the best.
    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • mickims
    2 months ago

    I’ve finally “confessed” to my disease issues and have asked for assistance when I’m fumbling for a word or thought. It has helped in many meetings to get through the moment and move on.

    It was embarrassing at times and I felt diminished, like I was the little old gray haired lady “losing it”. So, I’ve asked for help. Some still think I’m “losing it” but good friends and associates have made my life a little more manageable and I’m grateful.

    Now, my husband on the other hand????? GRIN

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Husbands are an entirely different story for starters lol

    I’m glad that you have those close to you that help you out.
    I have those too and they don’t blink an eye when I’m having issues getting the words out. It’s nice to have amazing people supporting you.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Kristier1979
    2 months ago

    Omg….. thank you for writing this.
    It makes me feel like I don’t know anything ima talking SPECIALLY when I’m tryin to voice my knowledge I’ve been to college & know everything about… it gets to the point where I don’t even what to hear ppl talking about things I know about so well it just gets me so frustrated. My speech & cognitive problems are one of the worst things I have dealing with MS.
    Again thank you for writing this…
    It’s such a huge problem for me & knowing I’m not the only one really helps. Much love sister, Kristie

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh girl, you are for sure not alone in this.
    While it sucks that we have to deal with it at all, at least we aren’t along in the struggle.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • marigoldg
    2 months ago

    OMG yes. This absolutely happens. I am extremely articulate and have a PhD and it is entirely frustrating when I’m having a brain hiccup and can’t come up with the right word. It’s especially challenging when I’m talking about something related to my profession or a topic I know really well.

    Sometimes, what comes out of my mouth is a tangential, but wrong, word. Sometimes, it’s a scramble of letters; for example one time I was trying to order Oysters Rockafeller and it came out as Roysters Oikafallow (which became a joke between my husband and I). Recently, I was trying to say the word “cup” and ended up using my hands to pantomime a cup and my mom figured it out.

    Luckily, I live with family and one of them also has a condition where he has the same problem. We just look at each other and try to figure out what we’re trying to say.

    For me, the best approach is to find the funny in my “Marigoldisms” and let people around me know that MS has made my brain leak out of my ears, taking along my language skills.

  • mickims
    2 months ago

    Love this – If I liked Roysters Oikafallow I’d order them next time. So, fun that your family has tuned in and walks the walk with you in humor.

  • New to me
    2 months ago

    I have days when it’s much worse than others, not just while talking to someone in person but also when typing an email/text, many times I have had to google something close to find the words I want to use! Also have myoclonus when they are both acting up I’d make a great stand up comic show! Most who are around me often are used to me fumbling for words, Thank you for sharing it’s nice to know I am not alone..

  • woknurbL1
    2 months ago

    OMG I hate this. I don’t get it often but I can’t spit out the words I want to say. Normally the word is rolling around in my head but I can’t think of what it is. I JUST had it and then it’s gone. One day I spit out mumble. I googled it of course and spoke to my nurse friend and then realized it is another joy of the MS world we live in. Thank you for your story. 🙂

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hey! Glad you enjoyed. I feel like the words that get lost is like a an animal loose from its pin and you’re trying to get it to go back in! But no… it’s stubborn.

    Lol
    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Nancy W
    2 months ago

    For me, these are “Grandmom words” when I can’t think of a word, I often blur Two words together that make no sense at all. On the other had, I sometimes use “big” words when with my grandkids , and they are not sure if it is really is a word, even when it is. We get a laugh out of this. Try playing Madlibs when you have this issue. It can be hysterical.

    By the way, “swimmingly” is a real adverb!

  • Grandma5
    2 months ago

    In so glad you printed this article. It isvery frustrating when you can’t find the word for something. Also I have the problem that in my head I know the word and am pronouncong it in. My head but when i try to say it Just won’t come out so I have to find an alternative word. Glad to know in not alone Just more stress.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hey! Glad to hear you enjoyed the article. You aren’t alone on the struggle bus of finding the words you need, that’s for sure

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Tulasi
    2 months ago

    Oh yes, also Google is great for helping with remembering the word. Just ask it a word that means like this.. or just try to describe it or ask for synonyms of something you think might be close unless you’ve forgotten the whole train of thought or in a situation where you can’t. Good luck and gotta have a sense of humor

  • Tulasi
    2 months ago

    Yes Ash you said it! Funny about how you said you know the word but it won’t come out your mouth so you start using all kinds of other words and hope it’ll work. Yup, know all about it! A lot now I just ask people what’s the word, you know, and sometimes describe what I’m trying to say how the words slipped my mind, and you’ll be surprised how it gets people more involved and many times they end up saying they know the word I mean but can’t remember…. So it works out pretty well since I’ve rather given up on being embarrassed about word recall. Of course I’m not talking about being a lawyer doing litigation etc. But I work with intellectuals all the time.
    And the explosive vomit. It’s like whatever goes thru your mind comes out the mouth with no sensorship or discretion going on. Got me in a lot of trouble, especially with the intelligent learned people I’m around. I couldn’t believe what was coming out my mouth. I got such instant heavy feedback that it forced me to figure out what was going on and make adjustments. Like do or die. It was good for my material and spiritual growth.
    Getting MS young, I appreciate it in the fact that it forced me to be much more serious in life. To search for the real me who was stuck inside this temporary body. To deeply, humbly reflect on questions like why are we here in the first place. To search deeper for our source, divine source.
    Pretty cool.
    Well y’all out there, I know y’all have different kinds and levels of pain, both physical and mental, some much worse than others, but just remember it won’t last forever, even when it feels like it. I find praying to help learn the lessons I’m suppose to, and things like that really help. Take care. God bless us all.

  • TraciDL
    2 months ago

    Amen.

  • Turnippatti
    2 months ago

    It happens to me very often also. It gets me very frustrated as well especially if I’m trying to answer a DR. Loved your article.

  • Janus
    2 months ago

    AND writing too! Getting something from your brain on to the computer, paper, etc.
    What happens to me while speaking usually turns in to a game of “fill in the blanks” because I simply can’t think of ANY word to use!
    Really good article Ashley, thanks a bunch!!

  • Tenhaus
    2 months ago

    I definitely can relate. My wife and I have personified my symptoms as the electrician on staff for maintenance within my body has a drinking problem. Sometimes I will fumble for words and she’ll simply smile and ask ‘electrician drunk again?’

  • MelC
    2 months ago

    I get this all The time Ashley. Sometimes it can be so embarassing. When it’s while talking to family members I just kinda hope they don’t notice, or if they do, that they’re just being polite by not pointing out my errors.
    It’s like I stumble over the coming that falls from my brain.

  • TraciDL
    2 months ago

    Can totally relate. Last week my almost 4 year old granddaughter was so freaking cute giggling and said “I think….”(? Can’t remember lol) in my head I was saying “I think you should come here and let me kiss your face”, what I blurted out was “I think you should come sit on my face and…” omg i quickly stopped myself in horror and turned to my daughter, and said “No! That did not just happen, tell no one.”! We laughed hysterically over it then and since then but for reals it was probably the 1st moment my 33 year old daughter fully saw my issues with brain to speech. Also the moment she probably thought mom should be kept away from normals lol.

  • lcal
    2 months ago

    TraciDL
    LMAO. Ive done this type of thing so many times re: grandkids and the face on my 26 yr old daughter when I do goes from shock, to disgust then thank gosh usually laughter
    thanks. it was nice to have a lol on someone else for a change

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Oh man! I can only imagine! At least y’all got a laugh out of it.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    Moderator/Blogger

  • Lupe
    2 months ago

    This is so dead on. I only wish others would understand and be more empathetic.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    2 months ago

    Very very true! We are the tool to help spread the word and educate people about MS!

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff
    Moderator/Author

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