People Share Their Brainfart Moments Where They Failed To Remember a Basic Word

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 brainfart only makes things worse, as your mind desperately scrabbles for an alternative…

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.


One of my cleverest and most fabulous friends at university (now PhD in neuroscience) once forgot the word for what she wanted in a restaurant and tried to explain with "like a really REALLY wet salad". Soup. She wanted soup.

One of the guys I used to work with forgot the name for a tape measure - called it a "how far machine" - it's passed into everyday vocabulary now!

My brother in law said couldn't remember the word "friends", so called them "the people you don't hate".

As a bilingual person I do this all the time. Although my problem is I can often think of the word in the other language but not the one I'm speaking in right now. I once had to describe pineapple as a hairy pear with a ponytail because I couldn't translate ananas from FR to EN.

Not in the same delightful league, but in the final throes of writing SATC, I forgot the word 'fork' while sitting in a restaurant. I asked a waiter for "one of the metal things with four stabby fingers". Obviously, he looked at me like I was insane.

When I was pregnant with my first, I cried one day because I forgot the word "banana." I described it to my then-husband, "It comes it its own case! It's yellow!"

Not in the same league, but I once completely blanked on 'Iceberg Lettuce' and had to call it 'Arctic Cabbage' instead. My wife has never, ever, let me forget that one. It was over 25 years ago.

I'm a prosecutor. During a particularly dramatic closing argument years ago, I forgot the defendant's name. "And that's why you should find … (pause) … (pause) … THAT GUY guilty!" And so I learned why prosecutors always say "the defendant." :-)

Reminds me of my two year old daughter explaining a hot dog to me as a "meat pickle".

During a lecture on the Mannheim Orchestra, I couldn't remember the term "tremolo," so I described the orchestra's fondness for decorating passages with the "nervous chihuahua" effect.

I am a nurse: once called a woman to pick up her husband, forgot the word nurse & said "Hi Mrs.X I'm your husbands wife." without missing a beat she says "He didn't tell me he got remarried". Now whenever I call family I have to repeat to myself "nurse not wife, nurse not wife".

I forgot the word "articulate" in an interview for a voluntary post and instead said "I'm good at saying things". I am a criminal barrister.

Hello. I have a degree in English Lit and thanks to a random brain freeze, I forgot the word for "memory", so I had to call it a "remembrance thought".

Haha my sympathies. Shiny crumb is a much better name for it. My 17yo forgot the word for "foal" in the summer and called it a "horse puppy" instead. I don't think any one of us will ever use the word "foal" again...

I taught English for many years and the moment I had to take an oral IELTS test I forgot the word for "puppies" and said "small dog babies".

I once forgot the word "table" and called it flat surface with legs. The person I was talking with knew what I meant as she is one of my people too.

A friend in uni tried to explain he was looking for "an out-pouch to hold fluid" at a party. A cup. He wanted a cup.

Hi, I'm El and I've been a barista for almost 5 years and I forgot the word for "lid" so I called it "teapot rooftop" once. :D

I once forgot the words for "Christmas tree" and asked a shop assistant where the light bush decorations were.

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  1. Mel March 1, 2019

    I grew up with a dad who loved to play with language. It wasn’t until I was in high school having dinner at a fancy restaurant with a friend’s family that I learned the correct phrase is NOT “pie a la commode”.

  2. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    My husband couldn’t come up with a good word from his Scrabble tiles, so he thought he’d see if he could get away with bluffing. He came up with the word “done” (rhymes with phone). After I didn’t challenge him, he laughed and told me how he’d tricked me. I told him, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done. Done. I’m done. The word is done.”

  3. Kelley March 2, 2019

    I’m with Mel. My dad always made up words for things! Some of them I realized were just word-play, but I ran into some funny moments with words that I thought were real. For example, he would call the garage the “girjee”. I thought girjee was a real word until I used it with some friends one day when I was around 11 or 12. They had no idea what I was talking about, and then we all laughed hysterically when we realized what I meant. Eye opening experience, that one.

  4. Anonymous March 2, 2019

    I had to meet a colleague to sort out some financial details for the community group we were involved with. I asked her to meet me “at the… at the… at the shop where they give you money.” Bank. I meant Bank!

  5. Anonymous March 4, 2019

    I can’t remember what this list is really about, but know it has to do with some kind of fart

  6. Cat1960 March 4, 2019

    My otherwise brilliant daughter is famous for this. A drawer is a “pull-out cupboard” and a snake is a “land eel”, to name just two.

  7. Kiku March 4, 2019

    My dad loved to mess with us as kids by playing with language as another commenter said, I called apple fritters apple frickers for way longer than I want to admit. My brother thought burger king was called burber king until he got a job there when he was 17. There are many more but those are the two worst examples.

  8. Annie March 5, 2019

    I was on some pretty heavy anti-depressants when I was younger, and forgot a word.
    Everyone kept giving me the weirdest look as I proceeded do describe it as the “reverse oven”.
    As I continued to confused looks, I got up and dragged my boyfriend into the kitchen “THIS!” I said, pointing at the Fridge/Freezer

  9. Anonymous March 5, 2019

    This happens so much when you try to switch between languages :)
    Once an office friend came to visit all of us at work to show off her new baby. It’s a Japanese tourism office so instead of saying simply she’s “kawaii” (cute) I said she’s “kawaii so” (in my head thinking I was saying oh she’s “so cute”–keep in mind Japanese sentence structure is very opposite to English–
    In reality “kawaii so” translates as “oh I’m so sorry for you” (an expression of extreme pity).
    So the social equivalent of viewing someone’s new baby for the first time and saying “ughhh I’m so sorry about your baby” i.e. like it’s ugly or something(!)
    Added bonus: my office friends all let me repeat this phrase several times because it is not the Japanese way to public confront someone. Thanks eh, my humiliation was totally enhanced. Oy vey!

  10. Anonymous March 6, 2019

    As a college student, my Spanish teacher stayed with a host family for a year during an immersion program. One day at the dinner table, she was relating a funny experience from her day. She described herself as “embarazada” — everyone stopped eating and talking and stared at her. She was mortified as it dawned on her the translation for embarazada– she had accidentally just used the word meaning “pregnant” instead of “embarrassed”!

  11. Eric March 6, 2019

    As a kid, I once went to my neighbor to borrow a fence post driver. I said something like, “the thing you use to pound in fence posts.” She said, “Oh, you want a… um… ah… a CLANGER DOWNER!”

  12. Chris March 9, 2019

    My son forgot the word broom at the of a 15 hour double shift. He asked “where’s the….. .the……floor comb?”

  13. Kisha March 11, 2019

    I regularly forget “hash browns”. Luckily my local diner understands when I stumble in half asleep wanting “crispy potato things”.

  14. Island Lady March 13, 2019

    After a year or so of teaching English in China, my vocabulary was beginning to fade. One day I was reaching for “airport,” but could only manage “airplane station.” My Canadian colleague took this with aplomb.

  15. Anonymous March 19, 2019

    Thus had me in tears. You are all my people! As for the smug soul who doesn’t believe it? Hahaha! Just you wait, whippersnapper!

  16. Anonymous March 20, 2019

    When my kids were little I would tease them if they came into kitchen while i was cooking by chasing them with kitchen tool saying ” getter getter” . They were teens and at first job in restaurant ask someone for “getters”..they wanted tongs.

  17. Marilyn May 24, 2019

    I was interviewing for an accounting job at a prestigious firm and made it through the first 2 rounds of the interviewing and went to the 3rd and final one with the BIG WIGS and as i approached them i went to shake their hand and instead of saying “HI” I said “BYE BYE”. Not a case of forgetting a word but having a word come out of my mouth out of nowhere. So embarrassed but I apologized and we all had a good laugh at it. They said they found it endearing.


  18. Anonymous May 25, 2019

    My kids referred to my rubber gloves (for dishwashing) as “yellow fingers.”

  19. Anonymous May 25, 2019

    My husband is still amazed that the waitress at a pseudo-italian restaurant gave me the exact side dish I wanted.
    She asked what side I wanted. “The … the white stuff” She got fettuccine alfredo from that.
    Hubby was confused at how she didn’t think I meant mashed potatoes (also a valid choice at this place).
    She even called it white stuff when she delivered the food.

  20. James May 26, 2019

    one time in the office when a friend was making a snack run and asked if I wanted anything I worked around the hole in my brain by asking for “bready moons.” because I had misplaced the word for croissants. he made up a little song about croissants to the tune of the theme song from “Sailor Moon”

  21. Anonymous May 27, 2019

    I was visiting a friend in France who was practicing her English. After dinner she asked me “would you care for some anus?” I was proud of myself that I kept a straight face as she poured me some Pastis, an anise flavored liquor.

  22. Anonymous May 31, 2019

    I once said skull shape because I couldn’t think of the phrase “bone structure”…

  23. Anonymous June 28, 2019

    When my son was about 3 years old, he came by to investigate my onion chopping. His comment at the eye-burning aroma… “That’s BRIGHT!”

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