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.

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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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63 Comments

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  1. Virginia February 27, 2019

    My Grandson forgot the name for “Safety Pin”. He called it a “Careful Pin”.

  2. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    My wife was looking for her phone charger and asked me if I’d seen “the plugger-inner.”

  3. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    I used “Cow Squeezins” for milk.

  4. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    My husband and I could never seem to wrap our heads around having remove controls for our bed. Eventually the “thing to make the bed go up and down” became the “uppy downy.”

  5. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    My 15 year old asked if we could have pasta pie for tea…. ?? He meant lasagne!

  6. Ian Springham February 27, 2019

    I once forgot the German word for “bicycle” and had to describe it as a “Zweirädernferngehenapparat” …

  7. Jelena February 27, 2019

    Once in the shop I couldn’t remember the word mustard and asked for ‘it looks like ketchup but it’s yellow’.

  8. Suzi February 27, 2019

    Gosh. Be interesting to see to see how many of these people go down the alzeimer path.

  9. Julie Gordon February 27, 2019

    My three year old saw snow for the first time. He said, “Look Mummy it’s raindrops with parachutes!”

  10. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    My daughter called a retractable tape measure a sticky-out number-tongue.

  11. Phyllis B. February 27, 2019

    Weeks after Christmas my then young son asked why someone still had a “circle tree” on their door?
    It made sense to me, more than the word wreath.

  12. Alice February 27, 2019

    When I was a little girl, I called hickups “hucum buckums”

  13. Anonymous February 27, 2019

    My friend’s little boy used to ask people, “What’s your Robert name?” He meant, “What’s your middle name?” HIS middle name is Robert.

  14. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    Last year I received a scary medical diagnosis. I swear my brain went to mush due to the stress. I experienced a memory dump of epic proportions and when I came back from a 6 week medical leave I could not remember any of my different passwords at work. NOT.A.SINGLE.ONE.OF.THEM! The IT department had to reset everything for me!

  15. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    Sperm = Special Wee.
    Bladder = urine pocket.

  16. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    Once told the person helping me park my car not to forget to close the ears of the car. What I was looking for was side-mirrors

  17. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    My daughter coined the phrase “hot curly lettuce” when describing a meal involving Savoy cabbage

  18. Paul February 28, 2019

    I once forgot the word “vocabulary”. I was trying to explain to someone how it feels as though my vocabulary has been getting smaller as I get older. And I didn’t know how to describe what I was talking about. My mind dictionary? The number of words that I know in my head? Oh yes, my vocabulary is not as good as it used to be.

  19. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    My daughter came to me crying that she hurt her corner, as she was pointing at her elbow

  20. Bonnie M. February 28, 2019

    Once my grand-daughter was talking to me about driving my big dually truck. We were going thru a narrow road that she didn’t think the truck would fit to drive down and she said “Is this…..truck with the fat thighs fit down this narrow road?” because she couldn’t remember dually!

  21. Vanessa Love February 28, 2019

    I forgot the name for chopsticks so I called them “Food Scissors.”

  22. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    I don’t believe most of these but they’re funny. If you can say “out-pouch for fluids,” there is no way you can’t say “cup,” sorry. But still amusing.

  23. Vicky February 28, 2019

    Small little square oven? Microwave.
    Plugs with those little things in – Fuses.
    Yes, and I am getting quite old; oh dear………

  24. Eva J February 28, 2019

    On a serious note:
    I had trouble remembering words in Danish (I’m Danish), but for some reason I could remember them in English.
    Turned out I had a tumor in my brain.

  25. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    I once spaced on the word phone. I held my hand up to my ear with thumb and pinky extended and said “the thingy”. My co-worked eventually figured it out.

  26. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    I once told the guy at the phone store I wanted to buy an Android Awesome and my husband was all, “Um, she means the Droid Incredible…”

  27. Anonymous February 28, 2019

    Back when homes had landline phones and no caller ID, I picked up the phone when it ran but couldn’t remember what you were supposed to say. So instead of saying “hello”, I said “eerp?”.

  28. Sara Rosinsky February 28, 2019

    I once forgot the word “aphasia.”

  29. queen jean February 28, 2019

    I couldn’t remember word for the handicapped placard for the car mirror so said, “the blue hangy downy thing”

  30. Natacha February 28, 2019

    I once wanted to say crow, but my brain had a fart and i said black seagull instead, when i saw a crow fly by the window

  31. sebastian verney February 28, 2019

    it hardly matters about the odd word, but forgetting a person’s name is an awful social gaffe, and transient aphasia effectively cuts you off from the world for a couple of hours.

  32. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    It is so interesting to read these and I am reminded of my mother when she had a massive stroke and had to relearn everything. Her speach therapist came in and showed her flash cards of ordinary thing to see if she knew them. When she got to the card with a flashlight on it , she could not remember the word flashlight. Instead she said “that which illuminates a room”! We were all impressed!

  33. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    Had a few while pregnant. Milk became Moo Juice.

  34. mama d March 1, 2019

    granddaughter called cauliflower “ghost broccoli” when she was 2. she didn’t have the vocab to name “ankle”, so she called it the “wrist of my leg”, at the same age. it worked.

  35. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    My best friend and I were backpacking in Europe, and were switching among 5 languages, and we couldn’t remember English for “airport” for about 4 days! We didn’t want to ask anyone for the word, because we’d have to describe it and sound like idiots, so it became, for us, the plane station. The funny part is that we both became travel agents.

  36. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    I teach natural childbirth classes, and for no good reason, sometimes switch the words “epidural” and “episiotomy”. VERY different words! Now I just warn my students that it may happen.

  37. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    One night my husband, telling the kids to get dressed for bed, blanked out and told them to “pajamify” themselves. It has stuck.

  38. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    My husband calls the crisper drawer in the fridge “the rotter,” as in “that’s where food goes to rot when we forget something. I didn’t realize how pervasive that had become until my 17-year old told me he just learned that “rotter” isn’t the real name for that drawer! ……nothing so satisfying as screwing up your kids……..

  39. Anonymous March 1, 2019

    Couldn’t remember “nail file.” Called it finger end sandpaper. (If I had remembered “nail”, my brain would’ve handed me “file.”

  40. Phil March 1, 2019

    Wife asked the gas station to fill up her pissers. (windshield washers)

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