Presque vu is a word you don’t hear every day unless you’re in France. It’s our featured term on this week’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of some of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world.
Today’s wacky word is: presque vu.
the inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word.
Presque vu is French for “almost seen”—a fancy-pants way of saying “brain fart” or “having a senior moment.” Basically, presque vu is a French neologism that refers to the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT). TOTs are instances in which, for no good reason at all, you temporarily forget a key word during conversation and are irritated by the feeling that it’s right at the tip of your tongue. Interestingly enough, presque vu is a psychological anomaly that may share the same synaptic origins as déjà vu, which is French for “already seen,” which is French for “already seen.”—Wait, did I say that twice?
The definition given above is from the word lethologica, which refers to the clinical inability to recall a word. Our use of it above is a little misleading because lethologica is actually a psychological disorder, whereas presque vu is just, well, a brain fart. To be fair, however, although presque vu and lethologica are unrelated in terms of cause, their effects are remarkably similar.
Surprisingly, a lot of research has been done to better understand presque vu. Back in 1965, psychologists Robert Brown and David McNeill wrote in “The ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon” that “[A subject] ‘seized’ by a TOT state. . . would appear to be in mild torment, something like the brink of a sneeze, and if he found the word his relief was considerable” (p. 326). Sounds about right to me. Don’t you hate that feeling?
In the same article, Mr. Brown and McNeill related some bad news for our friends out there who’re more “along” in years: apparently, instances of presque vu tend to increase with age. So if you’ve noticed those hairs a-grayin’ as of late, then you might want to prepare yourself for, um… GAH! What’s that word again?! I’m pretty sure it starts with a P….
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