Is there a word to describe suddenly becoming aware of a new word?
December 26, 2009 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word to describe suddenly becoming aware of a new word? You learn a new word, and suddenly you see that word everywhere. Or you have a new experience, and suddenly it seems the media is filled with other people talking about that same experience. Is there a word for this phenomenon? (previously)

This question was asked back in 2005; but no specific "word" was given.

I could have sworn I read about this effect and it sounded something like "Diago Effect" it was short for someones last name I believe... I can't find this ANYWHERE...

Here is an example: (possibly going to complicate the whole thing)

Person A gives Person B a book about "Hoarders"; Person B had never heard of the word Hoarders nor knew the definition until he/she received the book from Person A.
Five minutes later they turn on the TV and the TV Show "Hoarders" is playing; this in turn is a coincidence for Person A and B but also a "Diago Effect" for only Person B.
posted by MrBCID to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've always heard to this referred to as a Java Sparrow.
posted by coppermoss at 10:27 PM on December 26, 2009

(A proper Java Sparrow must have three occurences in rather rapid succession -- the first instance of learning of a new word, followed by two subsequent appearances)
posted by coppermoss at 10:29 PM on December 26, 2009

posted by cmoj at 10:38 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went from the Baader-Meinhof link that floam posted, to Wikipedia, whose article on synchronicity might be of interest to you.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:43 PM on December 26, 2009

He already tagged this post synchronicity.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2009

Confirmation bias?

No, really--you become aware of a new phrase, and your awareness of it causes you to spot it in places where previously you wouldn't have noticed it.

If that's not what's going on, then synchronicity is probably the word you're looking for,
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:03 PM on December 26, 2009

I have been told this is called "reticular activation", but when I read about it on wikipedia, that seems all wrong. *shrug*
posted by browse at 11:08 PM on December 26, 2009

It's a form of priming.
posted by knile at 11:50 PM on December 26, 2009

Best answer: In addition to the March 2005 post you found, this question (or the more general variant that includes sensitivity to other things besides words) was also pondered here in: The real intriguing question for me is what makes this recur so regularly...
posted by mbrubeck at 12:21 AM on December 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

It is in fact called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, as pointed out upthread.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:12 AM on December 27, 2009

Just a comment about why this is so common:

For a new word to stick in your head, you have to see, hear or use it repeatedly. When you learn a new, unfamiliar word, it's usually because the Bader-Meinhof phenonemon happened. If it didn't, you'd forget it.

I think a lot times coincidences seem remarkable because of this. If X, Y and Z hadn't happened, W wouldn't have happened or wouldn't exist. So X, Y and Z can't just be coincidences, right? Because, well, you know, W!
posted by nangar at 4:13 AM on December 27, 2009

I don't know if that was completely clear. What I mean is the Bader-Meinhof phenomenon can be pure coincidence but still account for a lot of cases when people learn new words.

(I think there's a cognitive psych term for this, but I can't remember it. It's similar to salience, but not exactly the same thing.)
posted by nangar at 4:44 AM on December 27, 2009

Totally unrelated to my own apparent contribution (and I do actually have one, that I am too lazy to prove) in popularizing the Baader-Meinhof meme, I watched a movie called "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" yesterday. Which is really weird.
posted by norm at 6:34 AM on December 27, 2009

I'm with Jung and the people above. Synchronicity. The Baader-Meinhof thing seems to me like a second tier description of synchronicity related only to words. So I guess maybe it is a more specific answer to your question but it strikes me as a side-effect of synchronicity.

Plus I gotta add there is something deliciously meta about looking for a word that describes the impact of learning a new word.
posted by Babblesort at 8:46 AM on December 27, 2009

It was answered in the earlier thread:

Wow, I just heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon the other day, and now it's cropping up everywhere!
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:52 AM on December 27, 2009

"Serendipity" comes to mind, but that word implies a happy accident of events, and isn't specifically about the type of event you are discussing. However, if they were all happy and beneficial chance events, you could describe the phenomena as serendipitous.

But no- that's really a stretch of the term.
posted by Piscean at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2009

I've never heard it called Baader-Meinhof, and the etymology seems suspect - anyone have a better one than linked here?

Far as I know, knile has it - priming. It doesn't just refer to words, but to anything that you experience and then suddenly it seems like it starts popping up everywhere. It doesn't - it's just that you keep noticing it.
posted by canine epigram at 1:44 PM on December 27, 2009

Response by poster: mbrubeck; looking at your links; the May 2008 link mentions Diegogarcity... This is in fact the word I confused for "Diago" ... now it's just a matter of deciding what to call it ... "Baader-Meinhof" or "Diegogarcity"; I guess just a matter of researching which came first ...
posted by MrBCID at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2009

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