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

Withnail
Community Member
2 years ago

It's like food, but you can drink it? No soup for you! Next!

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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
Community Member
2 years 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
Community Member
2 years 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
Community Member
2 years 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

chi-wei shen
Community Member
2 years ago

You couldn't translate Ananas from almost every other language to English because Ananas is the universal root for the name of this fruit.

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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
Community Member
2 years 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

Withnail
Community Member
2 years ago

Ooh, ooh, is it the DeWalt 18V XR Li-Ion compact hammer drill driver? Well, did I get it?

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#8

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POBrien14 Report

maswartz
Community Member
2 years ago

I'm curious if it worked

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#9

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GreyAreaUK Report

Nuno Cavaco
Community Member
2 years ago

Brilliant way around it, keeping the name structure!

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#10

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ruledbysequins Report

Phi
Community Member
2 years ago

Well, that can be a problem...

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#11

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AlistairDove Report

Withnail
Community Member
2 years ago

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

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#12

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manga_critic Report

Alexandru Bucur
Community Member
2 years 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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LynneSp Report

Jeff
Community Member
2 years ago

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

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#14

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Sue__Moss Report

Viktor Feurer
Community Member
2 years ago

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

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#15

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Bramptonmel Report

GABRIEL HICKNER
Community Member
2 years ago

I mean, they are

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#16

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kathy_hirst Report

Alexandru Bucur
Community Member
2 years ago

For some reason this led me to think at would be like to have a stereotypical Orc as a barrister - "Me gud at talky talky to mans in front of other mans". I swear this would need to be a TV show.

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#17

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Blahblah146 Report

Michel M. Prins
Community Member
2 years ago

Actually, that sounds very stylish and dignified

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#18

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teedamc Report

ravina nimje
Community Member
2 years ago

Its still valid word!

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#19

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graham_hunter68 Report

Nuno Cavaco
Community Member
2 years ago

I laughed REALLY hard at this!

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#20

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EmerTheScreamer Report

Michel M. Prins
Community Member
2 years ago

Sure it was an "accident". Uhu

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#21

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eastrockpark Report

Michel M. Prins
Community Member
2 years ago

Great minds think alike

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#22

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MissRiley88 Report

Alexandru Bucur
Community Member
2 years ago

Well, at a certain point, I'd argue there's not much difference between the two... Equally adorable, equally prone to mischief, equally clumsy, prone to piddling on the carpet...

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#23

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amylmargolis Report

Michel M. Prins
Community Member
2 years ago

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

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#24

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glenmore888 Report

Val
Community Member
2 years ago

And how much beer did he already have?

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#25

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eledh Report

Beeps
Community Member
2 years ago

That’s cute!

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#26

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Joe_Fru Report

Kebnekaise
Community Member
2 years ago

I like this word!

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#27

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ScienceDawn Report

Kaisu Rei
Community Member
2 years ago

Well, it's not wrong

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#28

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Lauren_Heritage Report

Alexandru Bucur
Community Member
2 years 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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zandergoss Report

Val
Community Member
2 years ago

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

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#30

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fen_ken Report

Michel M. Prins
Community Member
2 years ago

Ouch, that makes it extra awkward.

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