"Science writer & communicator"
February 19, 2019 1:12 PM   Subscribe

"Hello my name is Paul, I have a PhD in physics and thanks to a random brain freeze forgot the word for photon so had to call it a “shiny crumb” in front of my colleagues 😐" Other people chimed in with their own mis-, er mal-, um…wrong-word things. (SLTwitter)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (143 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
 
h/t Room 641-A
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:12 PM on February 19


I once forgot the word for cactus so I described it as "that angry plant with spikes".
posted by Fizz at 1:16 PM on February 19 [32 favorites]


This is all very very good. I once forgot the word "bathrobe" and after several minutes flailing, the best I could do was "water cloak".
posted by Rock Steady at 1:18 PM on February 19 [30 favorites]


Also, the whole thread is worth it for the video games academic who called Uncharted "Tomb Raider for Boys".
posted by Rock Steady at 1:19 PM on February 19 [11 favorites]


I forgot fire-hydrant and said 'street geyser'
posted by The Whelk at 1:21 PM on February 19 [16 favorites]


This Twitter thread was everything I needed last night. Boneless cinnamon toast!! Spouse then called it “cinnamon toast carpaccio” and got five awesome points.
posted by epj at 1:22 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


I love this! My favourite:
@wedzx2003 ‘I was organising a funeral for a client & used the word "deadness" repeatedly. It was only later that evening I remembered the correct word is "death"’
posted by billiebee at 1:29 PM on February 19 [33 favorites]


I wish I was this creative. Whenever I forget a word I just keep repeating "you know, the THING that goes on the THING" while waving my hands in an indiscriminate and vaguely confusing manner.
posted by Automocar at 1:31 PM on February 19 [25 favorites]


Also, I was once getting some drive-thru fast food, and as I pulled up to the window (where you pay and they give you your food), the person leaned out and said "Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?" I cocked my head and said, "We've already done this part..." Apparently it had been a long day.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:31 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


This is difficult to relate in writing, but regardless - there's a specialist clinic in Philly called the Foot and Ankle Institute. Nice big sign on the street corner with a stylized drawing of, well, a foot. We drove by it one day, I looked at the sign, and asked my dad was a "foot" (pronounced with a long O like "fruit" without the R) was. Because I had apparently forgotten what is attached to the other end of your leg.

Recently, if I have a brain fart I usually just stammer out, "The thing! You know... the thing!" and amazingly my wife seems to know what I'm talking about every single time.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:33 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


I've told the story before on Metafilter, but about the age of two or so, my toddler was obsessed with ice cream. Even though his total vocabulary was about 20 words, he had two separate terms for the stuff. Fresh out of the freezer? Icy creamy. Soft and melty? Cold yogurt.

One afternoon, his dad took him to Ikea, and after the requisite cheap hot dog and fries, the kiddo got his first taste of frosted cake.

The entire food court heard him, spoon in hand, eyes very wide, full of worshipful admiration, yell COLD YOGURT BREAD!!!!
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:35 PM on February 19 [62 favorites]


Not a brain fart, because he was only four at the time, but my son apparently didn't know the word "branch," and so he said, "Look, Mama, that dog has a big...uh...piece of a tree in its mouth!"
posted by Liesl at 1:36 PM on February 19 [10 favorites]


Horse puppies, ftw.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:41 PM on February 19 [22 favorites]


This doesn’t quite fit, but anyway, is true.
Last week I got an email from an external higher-up called Jen who I’ve known for a while.
Me: “Hi Jess don’t think that’s for me.”
Jen: “Apologies, find correction below.”
Me: “Thanks Jess.”
I then realised what I’d done and emailed: “Sorry Jen, I just called you Jess twice.”
Thought to myself: at least I noticed and apologised, she might not think I’m a total clown.

After I sent it I saw I’d spelled my own name wrong.
posted by billiebee at 1:42 PM on February 19 [71 favorites]


Once in high school, I was in the car with my grandfather and a friend. The friend told a story about forgetting something in his locker. And somehow the referent for the word "locker" entirely evaporated from my brain. I knew that it was a real thing, in the world — I mean I knew my friend hadn't used a nonsense word. But I could not, for at least a couple minutes, remember what a locker was. There was just a blank semantic space there, in my brain. And then, just as strangely, it came back to me.

I still think about this experience sometimes.
posted by penduluum at 1:44 PM on February 19 [11 favorites]


After I sent it I saw I’d spelled my own name wrong.

In your defense, Irish names are hard.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:48 PM on February 19 [9 favorites]


Also, the whole thread is worth it for the video games academic who called Uncharted "Tomb Raider for Boys".

Surely that's the equal-and-opposite case of instead using the absolute correct terminology. Like calling the 90's Hercules TV show "Boy Xena" instead.
posted by Drastic at 1:49 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


Just yesterday I couldn’t remember the noun form of being scared. Afraidiness is what I finally came out with. (Fear. The word I needed was fear.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 1:50 PM on February 19 [14 favorites]


My mother once forgot the word "dishwasher" when she was asking us to clear the dinner dishes and stammered out a request that we all put our dishes "in...uh, in the machine that makes them be clean."

Another term she used once, albeit due to being flustered instead of forgetful: she was in the midst of making Swedish meatballs with noodles for dinner for us one night, but was juggling several other tasks at the same time, and someone came into the room and asked her what was for dinner right at the point that she was at her most scattered and she blurted out that we were having "meedlenoosh". (Fortunately she heard herself, knew instantly that was wrong, and stopped and cracked up - and for a while "meedlenoosh" was the family name for that dish.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on February 19 [33 favorites]


My brain temporarily misplaces words all the time, and in the pause it takes to come up with the right word, my boyfriend will, about 20% of the time, helpfully interject with just the word I was looking for. The other 80% of the time he says "vagina". Overall he is not very fucking helpful at all.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:56 PM on February 19 [69 favorites]


I was shopping for groceries with my college girlfriend, and she was looking at a box of pretzels, at which I blurted "I'm a pret for those nutzels!" and she fell out laughing.

Six months later I unwrapped a birthday present and there was a box of Nutzels, which hadn't existed when I said it, but had been introduced in the first note rim (aka 'the interim').
posted by jamjam at 1:58 PM on February 19 [13 favorites]


Interesting. Just this past week I learned a new very old word: obstaculous. Obstaculous is to obstacle as miraculous is to miracle. I learned it because I totally made it up, then did the cocked-head thing, checked it out, and found out that my linguistic analogy worked, and so left it in - it just seemed less clunky than 'disadvantageous'.
posted by eclectist at 2:04 PM on February 19 [20 favorites]


I have an odd and inexplicable semi-permanent blank spot where the verb "to laminate" exists in most people's vocabs (seriously, I had to pause for about ten seconds just now to try to summon up the term) so I have occasionally asked to have a piece of paper embalmed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:07 PM on February 19 [63 favorites]


"sticktoitiveness" exists because people constantly have this experience with "perseverance"
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:08 PM on February 19 [18 favorites]


Had a chat with a friend just today who posted that she forgot the word for "algorithm" and was googling "computer recipe" (which, she said, did not help).

I countered with two that I've loved from previous threads of this sort: One person was blanking on the word "foals" and ended up shouting "horse kittens!" Another couldn't remember the word for a flash drive and requested an "information prong." I use both of these now. (Might use "computer recipe" but haven't had much use for the word "algorithm" in my life so far and hopefully won't much in the future.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:08 PM on February 19 [22 favorites]


I now call flights “air rides” after one of these.
posted by curious nu at 2:10 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Also, a few weeks ago my boss sent me a sterling example: A dude worked at a place where a Canada goose had a nest near the doorway. His co-worker, who didn't speak English very well, walked past the thing and it hissed at him. He informed the dude that "I do not like the cobra chicken."

My boss, my spouse and I (who run into them at our universities more often than we like) will ALL refer to them as such from now on.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:11 PM on February 19 [65 favorites]


When she was 5 my daughter coined the term “Nokay” as the clear opposite of “ok”. It’s been in constant usage around here ever since.
posted by hilberseimer at 2:15 PM on February 19 [12 favorites]


Hearing all of these stories and thinking "I know there's a term for this, it's aphasia, right?", and then having to google "term for forgetting the word" and getting Anomic aphasia in the first search return was both validating and weird. (I do not know when I learned about aphasia)

Dinner time is prime time for me, because it is usually when I'm trying to do complex multi-tasking (gathering ingredients, informal timer, stuff on the stove), and trying to have multiple conversations all at once.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 2:15 PM on February 19 [6 favorites]


Spouse and I once tried to request a movie by calling it "Dangerous Animals".

The movie in question was Fierce Creatures.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 2:18 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


When I was young during our monthly trips to the big city we'd turn on to "Canada road."
My mother, for years, pronounced it "Cay-Nay-Day," not making the connection with that big ass country to the South (we lived in Michigan) until many years later.
posted by Floydd at 2:19 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I once forgot Clint Eastwood's name in the middle of a conversation and resorted to "Cowboy actor... you know, right turn, Floyd!"

(I'm a bit dyslexic and forget famous people's names all the time)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:26 PM on February 19


This happens to me more often than I'd like to admit, and I'm happy to be in the company of a PhD even if it is indicative of my own cognitive decline.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:29 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I'm dying with laughter. I especially love "meat pickle" (for hot dog), "lovely window" (for mirror), and "Halloween eagles" (for ravens). Great thread.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:37 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


I have been a knitter for decades and never, ever remember the word "pattern." I always call them recipes.
posted by tangosnail at 2:38 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


dlugoczaj: Googling “computer recipe” ought to give you Numerical Recipes, which would be helpful, but it does not (I just tried). Oh well.
posted by snowmentality at 2:47 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I was this close to signing up for twitter just so I could <3 all of these. It's funny because it's true, but it's also sad because this mostly happens when you are overworked or in other ways stressed out.
Sadly, I can't remember my own best examples, but one thing is that I can never remember the names of people I dislike. This is extremely practical because it means I'm incapable of malignant gossip, but it can lead to some embarrassment, specially when people know me well enough that they know why I'm trying to describe someone I've worked closely with for a decade but whose name is completely gone.
posted by mumimor at 2:48 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Last year, my partner and I had to euthanize our amazing, spunky cat, Hepburn. It wasn't a surprise, but of course it was still wrenching. When our vet asked us what are plans were after she was gone, I couldn't for the life of me think of the word "ashes", and kept saying "cremains", sort of elongated, like some weird ghoul. Don't know where I first heard that word, but there it was, in the fore of my brain, pushing out something much more obvious and less freaky.
posted by but no cigar at 3:03 PM on February 19 [11 favorites]


The holiday with turkeys - when I was trying to think of Thanksgiving a couple of months after having ECT. Unfortunately, there were a lot of times like that.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 3:03 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


In Spain I couldn't work out how to ask whether the prawns were served with the shell on or off, so I ended up asking the server "Is the shrimp naked or is it wearing its clothes?" and got my answer and a chuckle.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:04 PM on February 19 [29 favorites]


I also googled 'ducklet' once and could not for the life of me figure out how a pokemon was a higher ranked search term than baby duck. I spent entire minutes baffled before I came across 'duckling' and honestly by that point duckling sounded wrong.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:14 PM on February 19 [19 favorites]


Randall Munroe literally wrote the book on this: Thing Explainer
posted by mach at 3:21 PM on February 19 [9 favorites]


In my defense, kangaroos kind of are arrogant rabbits.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:28 PM on February 19 [13 favorites]


Ski mask = face glove
posted by echo target at 3:28 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


I forget words all the time, but I also forget incidences of me doing it. Maybe these two issues go hand in hand?

Oh! I once called an airplane a "sky canoe".
posted by Gray Duck at 3:29 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


A domestic partner was getting desperate for the TV remote, and asked me to pass her 'the...the...the Special Thing." It stuck.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:35 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


I’m still feeling the effects of an anoxic brain injury from a few months ago, and I’m still not great at either memory or vocabulary. I’ve been told that I used “nature’s burrito” when I was trying to remember “cocoon.”
posted by bibliowench at 3:41 PM on February 19 [37 favorites]


I was trying to tell my colleagues that I was going to be enjoying lamb chops and sauerkraut for dinner but forgot the word for sauerkraut and for some reason "coleslaw" kept appearing in my brain but I knew it wasn't correct so I told them I was having "lamb chops and...slavs."
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:42 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


I will forget my own age if asked it unexpectedly. This is considerably less cute when a government official is checking your paperwork.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:46 PM on February 19 [11 favorites]


Coinkydink= coincidence. Ain't sayin' how it came about.
posted by notreally at 3:52 PM on February 19


A few months back I dropped something on the floor. When my wife looked over with a “what happened??” look on her face, my mind just went blank and I wound up pointing at the object on the floor and informing her that “gravity took it”, which she found both odd and delightful.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:52 PM on February 19 [61 favorites]


Danger Floss is pretty good
posted by BeeDo at 4:03 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Ski mask = face glove

I would point out that in German, a glove is a Handschuh: as one may well guess, a hand shoe.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:12 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


...and for a while "meedlenoosh" was the family name for that dish...

Since the IP on that term appears to have been relinquished, do you mind if we pick it up? I've never had meatballs and noodles but if I can call it meedlenoosh I just might start.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:13 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


For some reason the pronunciation of "colonoscopy" was a problem for many years. I'd get into the colon part then "lose track" of how to make the kinda "upwards lift" when hitting the -*os*-copy part. I think I had the long "o" there where it didn't fit. Managed to rewire it in the last year or so.
posted by aleph at 4:30 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


My favorite one of these from my life is when a friend asked if I had one of those things... in my sink.... you know.... the food processor for food you never want to see again?
Garbage disposal.
posted by Adridne at 4:32 PM on February 19 [34 favorites]


Husband and I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out the name of that medical tool, y'know the one you smoke the very end of a blunt with.

Hemostat.

Now, for some reason, when we do something very quickly, we say, "Faster than you can say hemostat."
posted by Sophie1 at 4:35 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


I forgot the word for alley so I called it a "street tunnel"

my name is Ally
posted by allymusiqua at 4:42 PM on February 19 [61 favorites]


I was trying to describe a certain fruit to a friend and forgot its name. I said, "You know, it's that fruit that's inside Fig Newtons. Not dates, something else. What's it called?" I got quite irritated that she kept laughing instead of helping me remember.
posted by mono blanco at 5:01 PM on February 19 [62 favorites]


I've got a subtle one: I once referred to "messaging" several times as "messenging." The embarrassing thing was that I did this in a class that I was teaching, and when I realized my mistake, I just moved on, without doing what I usually do when I make spoken word mistakes, which is to say "Sorry, English not my first language is," and wonder if they came to that conclusion anyway.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:24 PM on February 19


Oh my God I have to stop reading this thread on the big wheeled people carrier thing because people are starting to stare at me.

By people I mean like two besides be and the driver and I'm probably making them nervous.
posted by loquacious at 5:37 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


I do this a lot - my most recent was "lithographic xerox" when I couldn't think of the word fossil. But I have also directed theater kids to the aquarium for building the set, and complained about foot-fingers getting cold on the cold floor.

The inside of my head is a complex space?
posted by old gray mare at 5:45 PM on February 19 [10 favorites]


My kid, at the age of 4, saw a small plastic donkey. "That's a horse rabbit"
A bat? "mouse pig".

My partner lost several words in one sentence while trying to tell me where the leftovers from dinner were and after a few panicked moments said they were in the "cold box in food-room".

A lot of these remind me of Thing Explainer and I love them all.

EDIT: a word.
posted by lizifer at 6:10 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


My mother consistently blanks on the names of television or radio shows if they are longer than a single word. She then will make up an entirely new title for them. Sometimes, these are close enough to the original that you can see the easy mistake. Sometimes, they are things like replacing the title of the NPR show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me with "Hey Hey What Is It", which is not how my whole family refers to that show. (To the point that I had to google to remember which of those is actually correct.)

The best one so far is "Hey, Look at You Who Thinks That You're Dancing Now," which is not the actual name of So You Think You Can Dance but maybe should be.
posted by darchildre at 6:14 PM on February 19 [49 favorites]


I forgot the word for potholder and demanded, "Hey, where did you put my -- my -- my HOT HANDS?"

My 7-year-old is a constant font of these, because his interest in the world and desire to talk about it far outpaces his vocabulary (and he has a big vocabulary). One of my favorites was when he was three and he told me there was something in his eye and he was having "eye saliva." Or as the rest of us call it, tears! (And I love how he knew "saliva" but not "tears.") We call him our little Anne Shirley.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 PM on February 19 [9 favorites]


My worst ever: "this is my husband, whatsisname"
At the time we were married 5 years, together 10. Still together because whatsisname is a forgiving sort.
posted by chapps at 6:40 PM on February 19 [12 favorites]


My Greek mother-in-law taught herself English, and as someone who has traveled widely for conferences etc., she knows many complicated words, but misses some easier ones. She was walking behind me in an olive grove one day and fell. I turned and rushed towards her asking if she was OK. She said " I am OK. I walk and the land does not accept me".
posted by recklessbrother at 7:13 PM on February 19 [43 favorites]


Mr. BlahLaLa has never let me live down the fact that 20+ years ago I described some construction material as "inch-thick wire." It was rebar.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:22 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Plane station.
posted by stinkfoot at 7:35 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


My nephew, when he was about 4, would vociferously protest if we ordered him a hot dog.

“No!” Then, with a serious look. “Warm dog.”

I eat a hot dog nearly every day in the hospital cafeteria, and I think “warm dog” every time.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:37 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


You people and your friends and families have wonderfully metaphorical minds!
posted by jamjam at 8:00 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I once couldn't come up with the word legs and resorted to calling them "body mover sticks."
posted by CarolynG at 8:13 PM on February 19 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who has invited me to several gatherings with her other friends and family. She’s friendly with her ex and her ex’s wife. For some reason, when I first met this couple I got them confused with another couple. It was a names with faces thing. I did get it sorted out but then last summer I was chatting with her about stuff going on in her life and I said, “Remind me what her name is again?” She looked at me and slowly told me her name. I said, “oh right and her husband/your ex is _____?” And she said, “Yeah!” And then laughed and said, “I’m really surprised you have such a hard time remembering that.” And then I laughed really hard because her ex’s name is a core part of my last name and the ex’s wife has exactly my first name! I promised her I would not forget again.
posted by amanda at 8:17 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


"My nephew, when he was about 4, would vociferously protest if we ordered him a hot dog.
“No!” Then, with a serious look. “Warm dog.”"


My middle child, when he was that same age, got really upset one day when we were visiting grandma for Christmas and she was taking lunch orders. He asked for a grilled cheese sandwich and I went and relayed to my mom in the kitchen, "Micro McGee wants grilled cheese!"

He burst into hysterical sobs and wailing and I was like, "What? What's wrong? Did you hurt yourself?"

"I don't want grilled cheese! I want a grilled cheese SANDWICH! With bread! The cheese will be too hot and melty in my hands!"

I had to explain that the sandwich part was implied and that neither mom nor grandma was going to pour molten cheese into his bare hands! Now I giggle whenever I eat grilled cheese.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:28 PM on February 19 [29 favorites]


When my daughter was two she forgot (or hadn’t yet learned) the word “yucky,” so one day when she took a bite of something she didn’t like, she frowned and said “This food is...”. Then there was a pause as she worked out what to say next, before settling on a loud “NOT DELICIOUS!” I was amazed that “yucky” evaded her but “delicious” (rather than a simple “good” or “tasty”) was right there for her.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:57 PM on February 19 [12 favorites]


My cat is extremely fluffy and has a bit of a mane. This part of her anatomy is referred to by my youngest as her “furlong.”

My nurse writing a chart note, to me the doctor: “What’s this part of the body called?”, pointing to her forearm.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


Trying to remember the word "skeletal", all I could think of was "bonal".
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:12 PM on February 19 [16 favorites]


...Everytime I hit my gong, Everytime.
posted by clavdivs at 10:50 PM on February 19


I love this phenomenon. Once, I had just returned home from a high school exchange trip to Japan, so I was jetlagged and also not used to speaking English. My mother and I were painting the hallway and I noticed she had missed a patch by the doorbell chime, so I tried to tell her.

"Oh, you missed a spot by the... ding dong alarm." It's not even like the Japanese word for a doorbell is different, but I just couldn't.

She told me to sit down and have a glass of water.
posted by wakannai at 11:04 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


My friends will forever mock me for calling a ponytail "a classic tieback, that old-fashioned way!"
posted by aw jeez at 11:34 PM on February 19 [6 favorites]


I love this thread. My oft-told story is that I once forgot the word hair dryer and called it "that wind machine".

My husband has this problem, but laterally. If he can't remember the word for dishwasher he'll just say "fridge" or "microwave" instead.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 11:42 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I have a problem with remembering the word „employee“, made worse by pre-emptively panicking about it.
I was also, for a while, the editor responsible for the Careers & Management pages of a newspaper.

I would constantly have interviews that ended in the dreaded question:
„And how...how many...“ (sinking feeling)
„How many what?,“ the interviewee would ask helpfully.
„How many PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE,“ I would blurt out.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:15 AM on February 20 [5 favorites]


Tumblr has long had the sea pancake
posted by gc at 12:19 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My ex-wife habitually referred to the volunteer trees that cropped up north of the house as "freelance trees."
posted by bryon at 12:46 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


So I recently listened to a podcast that discussed malapropisms in fiction, and thought of an amazing fictional one on my way home at 1AM, at least for the DIY'er circles I move in- "don't make a strawbale argument"
posted by twoplussix at 1:21 AM on February 20


also, horsefish
(sea horse)
posted by twoplussix at 1:24 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


glasseyes to editing student: Okay why don't you Fast Backwards it to (timecode)?
Editing student, delicately, after a slight hesitation: Do you mean Reverse?
posted by glasseyes at 1:30 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Total brain freeze, in a restaurant, "Can I please have a...a....have a.......spikey spoon!" whilst pointing at a fork. Much to the hilarity of my fellow diners. It still comes up in conversation 10 years later. (you probably had to be there)
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 1:32 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


I have always been absolutely terrible at remembering people's names. Apparently this struck pretty early on because when I was 3 my favorite babysitter had a boyfriend. He had a hotroddy car and a dog named Puppy so one day I called him Puppycar instead of his name - and it stuck. My parents always referred to him that way ever after.
posted by gudrun at 3:03 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


One I liked from a similarly themed reddit thread: someone who called a colander a "noodle stay, water go".
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:30 AM on February 20 [13 favorites]


I once attempted to tell a colleague that a new delivery of reagents had arrived but couldn't remember the term for rolling cage so in momentary confusion (rather than just say reagents or delivery) I informed him that there was a "wheely-tally" in the corridor.

I was pleased when I tried to describe the TV show Grace & Frankie to my husband I could remember Jane Fonda's name but had to go with "her who's not Mrs Landingham" for Lily Tomlin and he got it instantly.
posted by *becca* at 3:40 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My mother consistently blanks on the names of television or radio shows if they are longer than a single word. She then will make up an entirely new title for them.

This occurs in my family too - my mother once told me she was watching Don't Dress Like That. And I think the whole family still remembers the time my grandma announced she was bringing some "I Guess It's Not Butter" to Thanksgiving dinner...
posted by jeudi at 3:58 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


The knee on my arm.
I meant my elbow, of course.
posted by Nieshka at 4:08 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


The knee on my arm.
I meant my elbow, of course.


Oh!! This isn't mine but it's too good not to share. A female colleague (who speaks English very fluently but as a 2nd language) couldn't remember the word for knee so tried to describe it to a male colleague. Only instead of saying "the thing in the middle of your leg" said "the thing between your legs" very loudly in the middle of the lab. She rapidly corrected herself but we were all cracking up for the rest of the day. Both colleagues are quite serious people who would never intentionally have a risque conversation.
posted by *becca* at 4:26 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My mother consistently blanks on the names of television or radio shows if they are longer than a single word.

For its entire run, my lovely mother-in-law referred to the show "Party of Five" as "Table For Five".
posted by Rock Steady at 4:37 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Moved on to brain farts, have we, JW? (Mimics Dreyfus eye twitch)
posted by zaixfeep at 5:28 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I've been a professional software developer since 1996 and have forgotten "argument" several times, referring to it as "the stuff that is passed to the function" or "the thing in parentheses."

Restaurants we've regularly gone to for years include Salad Place, Pickle Place, Noodle Place, etc.

Names of coworkers often elude me in conversation and so I've referred to "the new engineer who's been there for two years who you haven't met yet, with the shirts."
posted by Foosnark at 5:44 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My husband once referred to a smartphone as a “space telephone”. It has become household vernacular. “I can’t find my space telephone!”
posted by snowmentality at 5:47 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


If he can't remember the word for dishwasher he'll just say "fridge" or "microwave" instead.

oh yea, I do that too. I mean, I know I'm saying the wrong word, but it's still got to be closer to the right word than "vagina" is.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:54 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


a long time ago when vacationing and visiting family in South America my little brother, who at that time was a sophomore in university, was kind enough to help out at a restaurant my aunt had at that time. She was very grateful as he was fluently english/spanish bilingual and their own level of english wasn't so high. So, he was the default waiter for all the tourist tables. One evening there was this table of american tourists and he walks out opf the kitchen with their orders, arrives at the table and attempts to match the diner with the... with the.... uuummm... "good cooked" steak.

For the life of him at that exact moment he couldn't remember the term "well done".

Another shorter story, I once had an ex-SO who could not remember the term "immersion blender" so they would just call it "the rrRRRrr thingy".
posted by alchemist at 6:10 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My bete noire is "itinerary," a word I encounter almost daily. I think it's the Rs in close proximity, or something? Never come up with anything cute, though, just like "your list of -- things -- your itinerary."
posted by cage and aquarium at 6:10 AM on February 20


This is a tough one for me because it's a nearly daily occurrence. Trouble with word finding (word selection anomia Hermeowne Grangepurr!) is a result of my epilepsy and can indicate that I've had a seizure, might be about to have one, or am just tired and it's one of the first skills to show fragility.

Generally I don't end up with funny or poetically apt misnomers but instead come off sounding a bit like Terry Pratchett's tourist TwoFlower ("I would like to be directed to a hotel, place of repose, tavern...") as I triangulate on the soap bubble of a word I'mstalking before it pops.

Though when we moved to our condo, a small studio that I love so very much, my girlfriend would get rather annoyed (downsizing had been very hard for her) when I called it a spaceship - bedtime is prime language disaster territory and "Murphy Bed" wasn't already part of my regular lexicon. I figured if we slept on the wall we must live in a spaceship.

It's a good thing we don't have a couch.
posted by mce at 6:35 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I have a BA (Hons) in English Literature from a highly competitive university. While queuing up on Day One for Lecture One of aforementioned degree, the friendly girl ahead of me in the line turned around and asked me my name.

And, thanks to a random brain freeze, I didn't know the answer.
posted by citands at 6:36 AM on February 20 [5 favorites]


Restaurants we've regularly gone to for years include Salad Place, Pickle Place, Noodle Place, etc.

OK, last one. My mother once tried to remember the name of a local Mexican restaurant called "Sam Diego's". She got the general "Slightly altered Southwestern place name" theme, but came up with "Guadala Harry's".
posted by Rock Steady at 6:37 AM on February 20 [22 favorites]


TV show Grace & Frankie to my husband I could remember Jane Fonda's name but had to go with "her who's not Mrs Landingham" for Lily Tomlin and he got it instantly.

Heh - we had a similar conversation last night, and couldn't remember Lily Tomilins' name either...

So, she became "that magic schoolbus driver"...
posted by jkaczor at 6:37 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Geez, this started happening to me a couple of years ago... I have always figured it was brain-injury-adjacent but now I'm starting to think that it's just a normal part of the aging process, based on what I'm reading here. So that's. ... uhh... not bad I guess?
posted by some loser at 6:39 AM on February 20


I forgot the word for socks once so I called them foot pants.
posted by palomar at 6:43 AM on February 20 [9 favorites]


normal part of the aging process

HEY! ... Ummm... yeah... Actually, when I was younger I was very meticulous about specific terminology - "megabyte" was highly different than "gigabyte" (and tera... and so on)....

Now... not so much... Gimme da'ting...
posted by jkaczor at 6:46 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


That thread is endless! Um... brain scientists should study it for clues to how our minds work.
posted by tommasz at 7:05 AM on February 20


my grandma announced she was bringing some "I Guess It's Not Butter" to Thanksgiving dinner...

Previously: Memories of Butter
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:12 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


On a slight tangent, our friend group all have elderly parents who are in various phases of retirement home living. The names of these places crack us up and we have 100 different versions of them, none of which are the actual names of the places our parents live:

Shady View Manor
Grey Lodge
Frosty Pines
Fountain Grove
Silver Pines (grove, fountain, etc)
Cloudy Villas
Evergreen Chateau
etc.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:16 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Way back in high school, I was having lunch with my friends and we were talking about healthy diet. I said something like

"Well, my favorite healthy food is shredded lettuce with mixed vegetables."
[beat]
My friend Lina: You mean a salad?

Almost two decades, and she still won't let me live that down!
posted by basalganglia at 7:16 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I have a form of Prosopagnosia which manifests in both not recognizing people and not remembering their name (bizarrely I can often remember a password I assigned them 5 years ago and not their name I managed to use last week).

As a coping technique I keep a list of descriptions in my head and have a sort of flow chart process I run down when I'm trying to remember who a person is. This chart is completely derailed when someone changes anything about their appearance like hair colour/length, type of glasses, tan level, etc. (it's also messed up when things about a person aren't unique anymore, EG: When the only dark long haired female employee at the wholesaler is joined by another dark long haired female employee). But besides the flow chart I also develop non-name descriptive identifiers like Beard Dude or Bright Woman for people. Some of them are pretty nonsensical but like passwords are stored in different part of the brain than names and so I can associate them with people.

Which led up to me, in a moment of panic, referring to a former boss as Gnome Wrangler.

I also couldn't come up with my then fiancee's name when introducing her to my aunts at our reunion (stress can exasperate my condition and naturally any social event where I'm around people I know but haven't seen in a long while is a bloody mine field of name blanking).
posted by Mitheral at 8:20 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


I always laugh when I remember this case of broccoli treelings (aka florets).
posted by gueneverey at 8:28 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


i once told a former boss i'd send him a "...typey-typey... send... thing?"

he did not let me live that down, particularly because we work in tech.
posted by anem0ne at 8:52 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


In the realm of specialized jargon, I could not remember the proper terminology to describe when an allele of a gene is not selected for itself, but is passed on to the next generation because it's on the same chromosome as an extremely advantageous allele and is close enough to get preserved through recombination. The term is "genetic hitchhiking."

I called it "Piggy-back genes." I still think it's better than "hitchhiking."

It doesn't help that "PiggyBac" is a genetic editing system.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:11 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I've used the words "clothes dishwasher" before.

Also "thanks for mowing the dishes."
posted by Foosnark at 10:24 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


Having started playing guitar when I was a teenager, my go-to for the opposite of "electric" is always "acoustic."

As in, "Although I used an electric razor for a bit in my twenties, I now shave with an acoustic razor."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:59 AM on February 20 [14 favorites]


My mother consistently blanks on the names of television or radio shows if they are longer than a single word.

You are not alone. The current favorite is the Cameron Diaz/Ben Stiller vehicle "What Happened to Mary?" She also has a very endearing habit of never being able to remember the name of her meal delivery service and coming up with something different each time. "Get Fresh?" "Blue Plate?" Who knows.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:31 AM on February 20


I have a form of Prosopagnosia which manifests in both not recognizing people and not remembering their name

HELLO, other face-and-name-forgetting person!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:35 AM on February 20




Slippers = foot mittens
posted by bigbigdog at 12:15 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


My mother’s late husband’s first language was not English, but he was pretty much fluent. Except for idioms. Once, he told us, “It was so great...it really blew my socks away.” I still think that’s better!
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:58 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Many years ago I'd had hardly any sleep for a few days and was driving with some friends (I was laying down on the back seat) and I was trying to describe how to get somewhere. Words were just escaping me all over the shop but the worst one was when I was describing something as '... this long thing, with a line running down the middle'.

Road. The word I was looking for was road.
posted by h00py at 2:49 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I was trying to describe a certain fruit to a friend and forgot its name. I said, "You know, it's that fruit that's inside Fig Newtons. Not dates, something else. What's it called?" I got quite irritated that she kept laughing instead of helping me remember.

I was the friend who was laughing when a college friend asked me, "What's that thing? You know, the thing they throw in shot put competitions?"
posted by linux at 3:02 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


When I was a child in the late 1980s, my mother used to consistently call “Family Ties,” a show we watched weekly, “All in the Family.” (The actual “All in the Family” was consistently called “Archie Bunker” and was not actually something we'd watched in a long time: it was on in reruns.)

More recently, a year or two ago, when she had to have a couple of eye surgeries to stave off glaucoma, she bemoaned the fact that she was “hard of seeing.” That one wasn’t premeditated, but it caught on.

(Also hi, faithful lurker since the early 2000s, but this is my first comment ever, I think!)
posted by verbminx at 3:04 PM on February 20 [32 favorites]


Once when I was maybe nine or ten, I was playing in the living room with my younger brother and through some nonsense (I think involving tying a piece of string around a hotwheels car and then spinning it around overhead) we managed to introduce a large crack in the big front window.

My mom called shortly thereafter to check in on us and I knew I should tell her about this ahead of time but hadn't really put it into words. And so I stumbled toward an explanation that there was something bad that Had Happened to the window, while trying to be clear (this seemed very important to me) that we hadn't actually, like, shattered it. I knew I didn't want to say we "broke" it because that felt like saying it was shattered, like we'd put a hole through it.

And I couldn't think of the word "cracked" and so I just sort of stumbled around in circles (probably worrying her for more in that pause than I had imagined saying the window was broken would have) before finally blurting out that WE DENTED THE WINDOW.

I am 39 years old and I still hear about this at least once a year.
posted by cortex at 3:28 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I can't decide if this is strictly relevant, but: An older relative, whenever he stumbled over a word or phrase, would say "I got my tongue wrapped around my eyetooth, and couldn't see what I was saying!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:32 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


I was trying to describe a certain fruit to a friend and forgot its name. I said, "You know, it's that fruit that's inside Fig Newtons. Not dates, something else. What's it called?" I got quite irritated that she kept laughing instead of helping me remember.

I was the friend who was laughing when a college friend asked me, "What's that thing? You know, the thing they throw in shot put competitions?"


I did this in Spanish once, in front of my whole Spanish class (I am the professor). The students were trying to take an exam and someone in the next classroom over was using an old manual pencil sharpener, and it was really loud.

"What is that?" one of my students asked me, in Spanish.
Pleased that they used Spanish at all, I responded in Spanish, "It sounds like one of those things, you know, the machines, they get the point out of pencils . . . oh."

The Spanish word for pencil sharpener is "sacapuntas", literally "get out - points". I was literally saying the word and asking my students what the word was.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:39 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


My mother’s late husband’s first language was not English, but he was pretty much fluent. Except for idioms. Once, he told us, “It was so great...it really blew my socks away.” I still think that’s better!

Lovely! Second language improvisational vocab is a different thing, but glorious in its own way. A Russian coworker tried chocolate-covered coffee beans for the first time and exclaimed, "I love so much these coffee bean! And the chocolate makes them twice better!"

And I am no stranger to danger myself when fumbling in an unfamiliar language.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:23 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Yes! Sometimes second language improv is very beautiful or insightful. My partner was interviewing for a job once abd had to prove she could speak some Spanish. They wound up talking about burst pipes for some reason, but she couldn’t remember the word for pipe, so came up with “Ummm....the tubes that live inside the wall?” She got the job.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:44 PM on February 20


this is my first comment ever, I think

It is indeed, verbminx! Thank you for gracing my thread with it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:47 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I once received an e-mail at work from a potential client in Brazil whose English was shaky. She asked several questions requiring lengthy answers and at the end where a native English speaker might have written "Thanks in advance," she wrote, "Forward thanks."

I kind of love her.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:47 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I worked with a programmer (native English-speaker) who was fond of saying "we'll burn that bridge when we come to it."
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:49 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


As an aged human being, I am so grateful for this thread. Bless you all!
posted by Chitownfats at 7:01 PM on February 20


My nephew once said “my tummy feels [long pause, slight gesture to stomach] spicy” right before he threw up.

Spicy is now the family word for any illness or body ache.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:08 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


I work in a kitchen. The implement I’m asking for is called a ladle. I know that, right up until the moment I ask someone to hand me one. And, well, for the last year or so, instead of being able to remember the word “ladle” the only thing I can think of is “scoopula,” like a spatula, but for scooping.

More often than not, I’ll just get it myself these days.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:42 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


I had a coworker from Chile who had heard the joke about the pirate who walks into a bar with a ship's wheel in his pants -- "Yarrr, it's drivin' me nuts!" -- and thought it was very funny and tried to tell it himself, but botched the punchline: "Yarrr, it's drivin' me balls!"

Obviously his version is the one now used in my household to express annoyance.
posted by little cow make small moo at 9:29 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


Oh lord, people who butcher any joke more convoluted than "pull my finger". (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ That would be a good Metatalktail topic - I've got a few anecdotes to relate!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:50 AM on February 21


My sister and I were watching a match of futbol, and Pitbull was performing for it. We had no idea that was going to happen, until he rose up from under the stage on a floating platform, wearing a jersey that was a size too small, and tucked into a pair of chinos that were about 4 inches too short. My sister, absolutely flabbergasted at the sight of it all, exclaimed "Does he have his jersey plugged in?!" I still laugh thinking about it.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:15 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


Foosnark: "I've used the words "clothes dishwasher" before.

Also "thanks for mowing the dishes."
"

I also do the "dish laundry" at my house.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:15 PM on February 21


"Yarrr, it's drivin' me balls!"

A friend of mine has worked professionally in both comedy (as a writer and performer) and as a tour guide. One of his routes was in Ottawa where he pointed out the headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency, located in the historic Connaught Building. He sometimes quipped that, “this is where your tax money goes, to the Connaught Building. They call it that because once you send your money here, you Connaught get it back.” This always elicited mixed laughter and groans.

When he moved on, his replacement — whom he trained — was a French-Canadian guy who shadowed him for several tours to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. After he had taken over the tour, he mentioned to my friend that some of the jokes fell flat when he told them and he didn’t know why; was it maybe his accent?

My friend asked for an example, and the new guide said, “This is the headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency. They call it the Connaught Building because once you send your money here, you’re never gonna see it again!”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:46 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]


I am very late to this thread but my mother and I have never forgotten the ten minutes we spent bewildered by the difference between a French manicure and a Polish change offered by a nail salon. What kind of unique Polish manicure was it? We were baffled.
posted by hepta at 11:12 AM on February 24 [8 favorites]


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