Retrieving a word: fixing a tip-of-the-tongue moment

It wasn’t kind of me to describe an episode when five people failed to retrieve the simple word “marinate” from the recesses of our brains, not without offering some help.

So I googled around and here is a summary of tips for overcoming that disturbing tip-of-the-tongue experience. There’s a wonderful word for this. Remember? (I’m joking.) It’s lethologica.

Drawing: woman with very long tongue. The word "lethologica" is printed on the end of her tongue.
Lethologica! The word that refers to a tip-of-the-tongue moment

No guarantees that any of these tips will work! I have no idea which ones will be effective for you—but personally, I’m going to try drawing next time.

Psychology Today suggests:

  1. Keep talking, don’t pause.
  2. Find a synonym.
  3. Let it marinate!
  4. After you find the word, examine it and draw it. Then use it in conversation or emails to reinforce it.
  5. Make sure you’re sleeping well.

Psychologists Karin Humphreys and Amy Beth Warriner say:

  1. Give up. Don’t struggle to find the word: it’s counterproductive.
  2. When you find the word, repeat it to yourself, silently or aloud.

Other psychologists and speech therapists have found that drawing is a useful tool to help people with chronic aphasia. Well, chronic aphasia is a condition far beyond the universal tip-of-the-tongue moment—but next time, I’ll try it.

Stress and tiredness increase the chances of a tip-of-the-tongue moment: have you noticed that? Interestingly, the 5-person failure to retrieve the word “marinate” which I described in the previous post happened after some of us were recovering from a weekend of dance performances. So three of us can blame our tip-of-the-tongue moments on exhaustion 🙂

Good luck! No stress, remember. Everyone forgets words, but only older people let it stress them out.

13 thoughts on “Retrieving a word: fixing a tip-of-the-tongue moment

  1. josaiawrites says:

    Love this post….! And I want to point out that your lethologica was from being exhausted from a weekend of dance performances??? That’s one of the best reasons that I can think of. We need to keep dancing, even if we don’t always remember the words to the music, yes?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      A perfect reason, I agree. And yes, gotta keep dancing for sure!

  2. Cathy Cade says:

    that’s true – I’ve always had to fish for the word I want, so I didn’t see it as a sign of dementia (although it has got worse). I mostly go for finding a synonym (although sometimes these can sound a bit Baldrick – remember Blackadder?). Other than that, I mostly think of it when I’m not thinking about it.
    I shall have to remember that word for my lethological moments.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And that’s what they are: not senior moments.

  3. pamela978 says:

    Dear Rachel, So nice to see your face as having read my blog on our struggles to celebrate and be Thankful on this side of the globe. I hope you and your friends and family are staying safe and well over on your side…you seem to have a very effective Prime Minister…and we are hoping for better after January 20. My brother’s husband’s sister is quarantining in New Zealand with her husband. We help each other out with word-finding, sometimes resorting to pantomine…and they are way younger than I am.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hi Pamela We feel for you all in this bewildering time– family holidays without families. Are they even holidays? The coronavirus is under control here, with new cases spotted early and managed. But nearly everyone I know has family in other countries who are under duress. Stay strong, this too will pass.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Lately I find that my friends and I keep coming up with a near word (kind of like a near rhyme) rather than continue to fish around for the right one. I wonder if there is a word for that too.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I know that syndrome through my late father. For instance, he said “God the Father, God the Son and God the Golden Syrup.” A beautiful near-rhyme, we thought. It’s in one of my poems. There must be a word for that… Or an app…

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Great example.

  5. That was, er … encouraging! Keep going is good, something always turns up!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And so it does 🙂

  6. hilarymb says:

    Hi Rachel – I wanted to comment on your earlier post – but the box decided it wasn’t going to appear!: so be it. Being on my own I often want to ring up my uncle and ask him to help with a word … but I work round it – and eventually use something else or ‘it’ comes to mind. I try not to waste time worrying. Love the Golden Syrup take … how we absorb language is amazing and then talk using it. Have a peaceful holiday/Christmas season – stay safe and all the best – Hilary

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Not worrying is virtually winning the battle, I think! And you, enjoy your Christmas too, whatever it may bring.

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