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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68 thoughts on “People Share Their Brainfart Moments Where They Failed To Remember a Basic Word”

  1. 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.”

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

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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…”

  17. 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?”.

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

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

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

  26. 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……..

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

  28. 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”.

  29. 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.”

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

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

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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

  36. 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!

  37. 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”!

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