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June 12, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Why do we get "tip of the tongue" moments?? We’ve all experienced the tip of the tongue moment where we wanted to say something but just couldn’t remember the word. But what causes this momentary lapses in vocabulary?
posted by CaptKyle (43 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's because of ...

Oh, what's that word? You know, it was in the movie where they one guy did that thing?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the guy and the woman who go to the place to get the... argh. Yeah, I know the one.
posted by GuyZero at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2009


I don't even remember what I came in here to say.
posted by majick at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2009


Wait wait, don't tell me!
posted by The Whelk at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2009


CRS and 'senior moments' -- they happen to the best of us.
posted by vhsiv at 1:33 PM on June 12, 2009


I know the medical term for this, but I don't wanna kill the joke so early in the thread.
posted by Spatch at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2009


Frankly, I'm just stunned by my brain's ability to continuously and reliably use incredibly subtle electrical and chemical signals to instantly pull one of millions of obscure facts out of an impossibly complex network of billions of neurons.

Complaining that it fails on rare occasions (while providing us with feedback that we do HAVE the information and that further effort will recover it, no less!) seems a bit unreasonable.
posted by CaseyB at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


If it's on the tip of your tongue, stick it out and let me read it.
posted by eggman at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2009


One of my favorite times as a snide undergrade was reading Pinker's Language Instinct, the part where he uses these phenomena as evidence against the Whorfian Hypothesis. The argument was anecdotal and specious, but it sure was fun to haul out against my pomo-inclined friends. Worked every time.
posted by 7segment at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I'm just stunned by my brain's ability to continuously and reliably use incredibly subtle electrical and chemical signals to instantly forget most of the English language upon the moment I open my mouth.
posted by run"monty at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I prefer things to be on the tip of my tongue HEYOOOO.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2009


I prefer things to be on the tip of my tongue HEYOOOO.

You just want to get close enough to bite us.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2009


yesido
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2009


yesido

Oh no, my thread's taking a turn for the worst here...
posted by CaptKyle at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2009


I've noticed a new phenomenon for me in this regard, when I wake up the next morning my head is full of all the words, names, dates, and places that I couldn't remember the previous day.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2009


Brain tumour.

If there;s one thing Greys Anatomy has taught me it's that it's always a brain tumour.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on June 12, 2009


I thought the part of the brain that stores vocabulary had a limited storage capacity, so every time a new Internet Meme gets a name, a technical term that only gets referred to twice a year is dumped. It's a theory. Wish I had a name for it, but I don't want to forget transubstantiation.
posted by wendell at 2:22 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


At least it's not Lupus.

If there's one thing House has taught me it's that it's never Lupus.
posted by wendell at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2009


It was Lupus once.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh lupus exists alright. Even a man who is pure of heart might catch lupus when the autumn moon is bright... The only cure for lupus is to drive a stake through the heart, cut of the head, fill it's mouth with garlic and bury it at a crossroads. Only then will the curse be lifted. Also possibly immunosuppressive drugs.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find that the more I'm stressed the more this phenomenon occurs. Which makes me obsess that I am losing my memory, so I end up doing crazy memory-retrieval stunts to 'prove' that I can still remember things.

Which is why I frequently end up lying in bed at night trying to remember the name of Achilles' boyfriend and the geneology of Helen of Troy or the Krebs cycle.

I hate tip of the tongue moments.
posted by winna at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


er...

uhm....

damn.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:16 PM on June 12, 2009


Wikipedia is both good and bad for this.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2009


Wikipedia is both good and bad for this.

Wrong. Wikipedia is always good.
posted by CaptKyle at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2009


If I could just replace my memory with it...
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on June 12, 2009


diction is done with the tip of the tongue and the teeth.
posted by potch at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2009


this explains why my english vocabulary went to pot after I took french!
posted by rubah at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2009


As I said to my wife the other day, I am still as sharp as a ... what is that thing? It has a sharp end and you use it to pin papers to a bulletin board? Oh thanks--I am still as sharp as a tack.
posted by LarryC at 3:47 PM on June 12, 2009


All right, the jokes are funny, but this is genuinely a problem for those of us who suffer from dysphasia, and also a related condition that causes us to eglect he irst etter f very ord.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's called ... something aphasia, I believe.

Also, re: lupus, that's not what that OTHER medical show told me. But if we count ratings in the same way we grade scientific research by citations, Dr. House is rivaled only by American Idol and Dancing with the Stars in the clout of his opinions.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2009


If there;s one thing Greys Anatomy has taught me it's that it's always a brain tumour.

It's naht a toomuh.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:39 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope this doesn't come off as astroturf, but I've found the best place to elicit this distressing feeling is the quiz site Sporcle (previously). Quick -- what's the capital of Norway? The Spanish word for grandmother? The name of the police chief from The Simpsons? YOU ONLY HAVE A FEW SECONDS LEFT.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:16 PM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


My whole life has been one long bout of tip of the tongue. I think it's to do with the way I tend not to think in words, and only verbalise thoughts as I'm talking. Might be a left brain/right brain thing. My mother is predisposed to quite outrageous spoonerisms and plain wrong words that you'd expect from a beginner English student, so I was pretty much doomed from the start.
posted by kersplunk at 6:56 PM on June 12, 2009


Rhaomi is right- that quiz site is FIENDISH!

I couldn't remember who wrote Gigi or the word for mushroom in French! Curses!
posted by winna at 9:42 PM on June 12, 2009


An old friend of mine once told me that his grandmother said when you couldn't remember what you were about to say, then it was going to be a lie.

There's nothing to make you feel more, oh hell, what's that word for unnecessarily guilty again? Anyway, nothing more of THAT than an old grandmother's saying.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:08 PM on June 12, 2009


But what causes this momentary lapses in vocabulary?

Alcohol.
posted by RockCorpse at 3:42 AM on June 13, 2009


Oh kersplunk you have described me exactly! My husband is so good a deciphering my cryptic code such as referring to "Everybody Loves Earl" or "Boys N'Synch."* Sometimes I think he keeps me around just for the giggles. Ask me what I am reading at the moment, and I can't recall either title or author. However sit me down with the New York Times Crossword and I have no trouble at all with either cultural, historical, or scientific references. It is all inside the brain, but the journey out via my mouth is a steep and thorny path.

*For the Brits in the house: yesterday I waxed lyrical over Spring Break when I meant Springwatch and referred to Insiders when I meant Inbetweeners.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:26 AM on June 13, 2009


Broccoli aphasia?
posted by Artw at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2009


After spending the last 15 years or so switching over to speaking French half the time (my wife is from Quebec and we wanted our kids to be as bilangue as possible), what I notice is that for no apparent reason, some English words will just get replaced by the French one. I always have to look for the word cradle, but berceuse jumps into the sentence. Same with jumelle/twin and a bunch of others.

This causes extra tip-of-the-tongue moments on top of the "normal" occurrence of missing English words, which seems to be affected by tiredness more than anything.
posted by sneebler at 7:48 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This happens to me all the time and for some reason, my anti-convulsant medication makes it 1000x worse. I've developed a vast resource of synonyms for words that I meant to say and often speak in contorted grammatical structures, such as this, that were definitely not approved by the Geneva convention.

My short term memory in general has gone right down the toilet. I went to talk to my neurologist about it, and ended up in the wrong office because I forgot where my appointment was. No lie.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2009


My mom once told me that she keeps the word "aphasia" on mental speed-dial so that when this happens to her, she can explain the problem in three syllables.
posted by Kalthare at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2009


Simpsons did it ...

"Marge! Where's that metal dealie...you use to...dig...food??"
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:31 PM on June 13, 2009


I'm always sure it's early onset oldtimers disease. Wait, that's not quite right. What's that word again...
posted by deborah at 12:29 AM on June 14, 2009


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