After getting such commendable grades for all my language subjects, I thought I was a linguistic genius. However, there are times when my mouth motors off incomprehensibly and it takes me a while to realize that I spoke complete and utter nonsense.
It’s amusing to see the confusion contorted on the face of the person I had spoken to. It’s also highly embarrassing that I sounded like a caveman.
Here are the instances of when I had to mentally slap myself for being barbarically unintelligible:
Linguists have categorized this as an error of speech. It’s named after William Archibald Spooner, who couldn’t seem to shake off this particular habit. Spoonerism is when consonants, vowels or morphemes are switched correspondingly between two words in a phrase.
While I was having lunch with a group of friends on one fine day, I had ordered a bowl of noodles. Then, I said to a friend who had the tray of cutlery next to him, “Can you pass me the spork and foon, please?”
Then, they proceeded with a reply, “Should we foon speed you next?”
What a nightmare.
Another instance was when I had a conversation with a friend of mine talking about the latest gadgets and mobile phones. At one point, he said, “Well, you can expect something like that from an Androde phoine. Android. Phone.” He corrected himself, as I howled with laughter.
Now while these are commonly heard as sudden slips of the tongue, some literary works use Spoonerism intentionally as a play on words.
Blending of words
Sometimes the brain is in a speed rush that your mouth isn’t able to catch up. This may result in the blending of two words together.
As I was traveling with a cousin of mine, she excitedly told me, “Look! There’s a wountain!”
For a moment, I had actually thought she meant a mountain. But as I followed the direction of her pointed finger, it was in fact, a water fountain.
This will commonly happen if you’re bilingual or multilingual. Ever experience a moment where you really can’t find the word you’re looking for in English? The only thing you can do at that moment is to supply the blanks with another language. It’s even better if the person you’re speaking with knows the same languages as you do, too.
One day I was speaking to a Japanese friend and I remember saying to him, “Oh, I saw your classmate at the bibliothèque this morning.”
He asked me if that was a name of a new restaurant. At that moment, I wasn’t fully paying attention to what I was saying. Which was probably why it was easy for me to slip into French when my mind is on some kind of auto-pilot.
On the other hand, my Japanese friend had a similar situation. Rather than subconsciously saying things in Japanese, he was trying to find the word in English. But he couldn’t conjure the right word for a while, so he resorted to saying it in Japanese.
“Yeah, she was totally nanpa-ing with that guy.”
Nanpa-ing. How beautiful and wonderful code-switching structures can be.
A portmanteau of word and amnesia, this phenomenon describes when you see a very common word. It’s such an extremely, common and regular word that you use on a daily basis and somehow, you’re struck by how oddly it’s spelled.
At this moment, you think your brain is glitching badly.
I remember writing a proper e-mail to a company and I was on a roll until I came to a halt on the word business. I spelled it out as business. Then, I thought, “Wait, isn’t that an act of being busy? Busy-ness?”
So I hit the delete button and spelled it as bizzness. I hesitated, of course. It didn’t look right either. In the end, I called my sister up and asked her how to spell the word. I could definitely hear her eyes rolling through the phone speaker.
Funny how the brain works, doesn’t it? The good news is that these brain farts don’t last very long. Your brain does tend to have little tiny bumps in the way its thinking. I suppose that’s to be expected from a human organ that is constantly working even when you’re sleeping.