Is there a term for the phenomenon of unintentionally using an entirely different word when writing?
October 19, 2010 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there a term for the phenomenon of unintentionally using an entirely different word when writing?

I've noticed when typing or texting (it doesn't seem to happen when I print or write long-hand), I often type the entirely wrong word. "Word" instead of "war", or "boat" instead of "bike". It isn't the result of hitting the wrong keys (I am a fast typist). There are usually some similarities between the 2 words - similar sounds, for example.

I'm seldom aware of doing it and don't notice the mistake until I proof what I've written a few times.* I've had this problem for as long as I can remember.

Is this a known phenomenon with a name? I'm more curious than anything else, but am cautious about my neurological health, having witnessed similar behavior from my grandmother when she was recovering from a stroke. I've a marked stammer when I speak (anything from not being able to say a word, to repeating an entire sentence a few times), so I already suspect the language center of my brain isn't up to spec.

* In this post alone, I typed "have" instead of "happen" in the first paragraph. Yeesh.
posted by Wossname to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

If this had just started happening, I'd say get thee to a neurologist. Since you've had the problem for as long as you can remember, I imagine it's just a quirk. (IANANN/D/etc.)
posted by tel3path at 2:58 PM on October 19, 2010

I've heard these called thinkos.
posted by zamboni at 2:59 PM on October 19, 2010

I don't know about the semantics of it, but if it helps at all, I do this all the time too when typing. Not speaking or writing, just typing. ("Idiot" becomes "ice cream" for example.) I noticed it became a problem when I began to learn to type more quickly.

My silly guess on the whole deal is certain words have certain rhythmic finger patterns, and if you're going too fast, your hands will put down a word that are typed with close or similar pattern. I've absolutely nothing to back this up, though.
posted by vienaragis at 5:00 PM on October 19, 2010

Are you taking any medication that might be causing this? When I took Topamax, I noticed myself doing this, both while typing, writing, and speaking. It was very disconcerting.
posted by tamitang at 7:28 PM on October 19, 2010

muscle memory plays havoc with my fingers when relating to my keyboard. i cannot type foot without it turning into FOOD. That's a chef-thing, i know, but could that be an issue for you?

i know my brain is broken somehow... I have found that sometimes i have to recite a litany of not-quite-right words before the right one comes out, but only verbally, not in typing.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 10:55 PM on October 19, 2010

I call it a "Freudian slip" and don't get upset about medical significance.
posted by gakiko at 2:05 AM on October 20, 2010

YES! I've been doing this for years, and wondering the same thing. Similarly strange, I will sometimes notice that I type a whole sentence, go back and read it, and I will have typed instead of a wrong whole word, a word that is clearly in the wrong tense.
posted by bitterkitten at 8:25 AM on October 20, 2010

posted by Wossname

posted by vickyverky at 4:03 PM on October 20, 2010

In this post, metafilter's neurologist ikkyu2 notes the phenomenon you describe and calls it a paraphasia.
posted by sunnichka at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2010

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