Not Exactly the Tip of the Tongue

You know how sometimes you’re trying to think of a name or a word and it just won’t come, no matter how hard you try, but later that day while you’re chopping onions or taking a shower you’re all suddenly “Judi Dench! Dude, it was Judi Dench!” out of nowhere? So sometimes when you’re trying to remember a name or word that won’t come, you stop trying, hoping to get it to bubble up sooner precisely by not thinking about it?

About six months ago (maybe more), I was having a conversation with someone (can’t at all remember who) about those words that you’ve either only seen in print and never heard pronounced or that you’ve actually heard pronounced but for whatever reason haven’t connected the version you hear to the version you read, and so run around with some completely wrong assumed pronunciation for the word until, at a moment of supreme embarrassment, somebody finally corrects you. And I had the most brilliant example of this, the story of a friend who for whatever reason didn’t connect the printed version of a very common word to its very common pronunciation, and instead invented an entire etymology for the pronunciation he’d imagined for it.

But I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember the word, which kinda deflated the story a bit.

I knew it was a pretty short verb, and a really common one, and I knew the misunderstanding revolved around it being an irregular past participle, for which he invented an entirely imagined regular infinitive form. But beyond that, I couldn’t get the word to pop up, so I stopped thinking about it.

And apparently really stopped thinking about it, both consciously and unconsciously, because only this morning, months and months later, as I was typing a message that happened to contain the word, did the memory of having tried to remember that word return.

This entire blog post is brought to you by my desire to make sure that I don’t forget once again that the word was “misled.” (Pronounced MAI-zld, pp of “to misle.”)

3 thoughts on “Not Exactly the Tip of the Tongue

  1. Michael Dummett, former Wykeham Professor of Logic, also wrote a book on the Tarot, and a conference paper I heard on surrealism and cartomancy apparently assumed that he was French along with most of the other writers being quoted and pronounced his name as such. It occurred to me that I couldn’t ever actually remember anyone saying his name, and I also couldn’t imagine a way of correcting the speaker without being a complete asshole, so I did nothing.

    The Anthony Blunt character in Banville’s The Untouchable mocks someone for not sounding the final consonant in “Degas,” which always terrified me.

  2. Ugh, names. The pronunciation of names terrifies me, and particularly in that conference-paper setting. I find myself madly checking with everyone to make sure I’ve got a new name right before venturing to utter it in public…

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