We've all been there. You're in the middle of a conversation or a presentation and suddenly your mind goes blank. What was that basic word, the one that I really really should know? Your panicked reaction to this untimely brain freeze only makes things worse, as your mind desperately scrabbles for an alternative. Any alternative. "Shiny crumb," was what University of Cambridge physicist Paul Coxon eventually blurted out, having inconveniently slipped over the word "photon, " a term that he would otherwise casually refer to several times a day. Naturally, his fellow scientists found it hilarious that Paul, with a Ph.D. in physics, was capable of such a catastrophic brainfart. It happens to the best of us! Paul took to Twitter to share his embarrassment and found that he certainly isn't alone!

"I was talking with a colleague about how we can control the routes photons, ie particles of light, can take as they pass through the various solar photovoltaic materials and my mind just went blank," Paul explained to Bored Panda. "We were in the department tea room and there were crumbs on the table so I guess my mind just jumped and switched photons - a word I must say dozens of times a day, for “shiny… crumbs”. I can’t properly describe it. We both saw the funny side."

"My department has lots of very bright students and researchers from all over the world and I have immense respect for my colleagues studying for PhDs in what may be their second or even third language." Since my Tweet, lots of people on Twitter replied sharing the times their minds have gone blank and forgotten words, and lots have been hilarious. The human mind is remarkable."

"I’ve also received several very nice emails from people with cognitive conditions, or are undergoing medical treatment which can cause some language impairment, saying how much they enjoyed to see folk “even those with advanced degrees” struggling with words too and it made them feel less alone, knowing that it happens to everyone."

Scroll down to read people's own hilarious stories for yourself, and share your own in the comments!

Image credits: paulcoxon

Image credits: paulcoxon

#1

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wesleymallin Report

CultOfBambi 2 months ago

Toes = foot-fingers

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It turns out that this "tip of the tongue" phenomenon has a name: lethologica. Psychologists define the feeling as a feeling that accompanies the temporary inability to retrieve information from memory. Researchers have looked into lethologica and found some interesting aspects to this frustrating feeling.

#2

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hardleygirl Report

Pamela24 2 months ago

"How far machine" is brilliant! I shall use it from now on!

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The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is universal.Surveys suggest that around 90 percent of speakers of different languages from all over the world report experiencing moments where memories seem momentarily inaccessible.

#3

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Jg0_100 Report

Val 2 months ago

Pretty close

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These moments occur quite often and this frequency increases with age. Young people typically have tip-of-the-tongue moments about once each week, while older adults find that they may occur as often as once each day.


#4

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Fryguy9 Report

Michel M. Prins 2 months ago

I mean he's not wrong, right?

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People often remember partial bits of information. For example, they may remember the letter the word they are searching for begins with or the number of syllables the word contains.


#5

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Kismet80 Report

Alexandru Bucur 2 months ago

As someone who speaks five languages fluently, that happens. All. The. Time. it is incredibly annoying - you'd be speaking along and suddenly, blank. The word you're looking for in French is just not there... and instead you brains offers you this Italian word, which might not even be the correct one, but just homonym and simply won't take no for an answer. Nine times out of ten I end up having to either resort to a third language, like English in order to avoid "Buffy Speak".

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When you experience lethologica, you know that the word you are looking for is there, it's just tantalisingly outside of your grasp. It seems to have been closed off, behind some kind of mental brick wall. When something finally comes along to trigger the missing information, the sense of relief is real! There doesn't appear to be any particular reason why lethologica happens, beyond being simply tired, or perhaps the memory wasn't properly stored in the first place. Interestingly the phenomenon occurs more frequently in bilingual people, suggesting that the presence of competing words for the same meaning can have an interfering influence.

#6

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laurie_winkless Report

Šimon Špaček 2 months ago

Sounds like one of my best friends who once asked for "woody music thingy with moving pins". Guitar was just too hard to remember...

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So what can you do when you are struck by a "tip-of-the-tongue" moment? One tentative study suggests it could be as simple as squeezing your fist. "By clenching your left fist (or, theoretically, any significant portion of the left side of your body) you increase blood-flow to the contralateral or right hemisphere, which gives the retrieval mechanisms a lift," it is claimed. In the study they did a 90 second clench, but you can try shorter intervals for a possible memory boost. If nothing else it could relax your mind and help you to focus on something else, because the more you beat yourself up trying to remember the word, the harder it actually becomes.

#7

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fisty Report

Kaisu Rei 2 months ago

My pregnant friend once forgot the word for coconut and called them "milk balls"

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#8

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HANS 2 months ago

... and ten men in the courtroom broke into a sweat.

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#9

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Naima Ivansdóttir 2 months ago

i like it much better

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#10

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Hannah Dobbins 2 months ago

"Thank you, Person From My Last Flight."

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#11

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Withnail 2 months ago

I feel terrible for thinking it, but that is tremendously phallic...

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#12

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Alexandru Bucur 2 months ago

Now that is a good description of a tremolo. I think I'll adopt it.

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#13

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Jeff 2 months ago

This could have gone way worse than it did....

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#14

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Viktor Feurer 2 months ago

you know how the get the attention of the audience... :D

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#15

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Hope Floats 2 months ago

"Horse puppy" sounds so much nicer..As "foal" is too much like "foul"...

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#16

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Lingon 2 months ago

I know words, I have the best words.

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#17

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Michel M. Prins 2 months ago

Actually, that sounds very stylish and dignified

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#18

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Janine B. 2 months ago

Lol. A friend of mine wanted to ask for the menu in a restaurant and asked for the map instead. The German word for both is Karte (card) btw.

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#19

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graham_hunter68 Report

Robert Thornburrow 2 months ago

That's almost a Malapropism. Some good ones are "The neighbours cooking fat just did its business in the garden again" and "Nancy is such a boiled sprat". We used have a clip show and I remember one reporter had trouble with "hypodermic needle" and called it a "hypodeemic nerdle". God bless Mrs Malaprop. :D

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#20

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Wiggity 2 months ago

They prefer to be called IRS agents.

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#21

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Michel M. Prins 2 months ago

Great minds think alike

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#22

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Grazina Strolia 2 months ago

Okay, at this point it seems clear that even if we forget EVERY OTHER WORD, we will always remember the word puppy.

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#23

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Michel M. Prins 2 months ago

By saying that last thing it will immediately grab the attention of everyone, though.

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#24

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Val 2 months ago

And how much beer did he already have?

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#25

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Beeps 2 months ago

That’s cute!

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#26

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Em Rad 2 months ago

This is how I come up with half the words I use a lot. Buddhist monk is now 'boonk'.. my brain goes faster than my mouth lol

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#27

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Kaisu Rei 2 months ago

Well, it's not wrong

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#28

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Alexandru Bucur 2 months ago

Ooh, good one. I'm stealing it and using it from now on. Next time someone chastises me that I should say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" because F- all those other cultures and religions which also have celebrations around that time, some of them a lot older than Christianity, I'm going to tell them I personally don't celebrate Christmas, I celebrate "Light Bush Day".

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#29

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Val 2 months ago

Why use simple words when you give it a long intellectual name

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#30

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Michel M. Prins 2 months ago

Ouch, that makes it extra awkward.

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