A weird slip of the mind -- what was it?
April 14, 2008 2:43 AM   Subscribe

I've had a weird slip of the mind. Does it have a name, and should I be worried?

This morning the postman tried to deliver a package before I got up. He wrote on a card that it had been delivered to my neighbours at no. 119 for me to pick up (common here in the UK).

When I saw this, I thought it was the house to my left, because I live at 120. Except I don't live at 120. I live at 118. So the package was with my other neighbour further up, as I found out when she dropped it off for me just now.

I've lived in my house (118) for three years now. Why did I have such a weird slip of the mind? I don't think I've ever lived at a number 120 although I did previously live at a number 20a, and lived at a number 20 throughout my childhood.

This kind of thing happens to me more than I'd like.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Writing & Language (15 answers total)
I'm hoping the general response will be - nah, don't worry about it, it happens as you age. I've had a number of these happen to me, and more often recently. Three days ago, I forgot how to do subtraction (I can remember now). People I've spoken to say it's stress (except I feel fine) or aging (okay, I'm 40) or there's just too much to be able to remember everything all the time. I looked it up on the interwebs, and instead of coming away with the feeling that I'm dying (which is my normal experience of researching physical symptoms online), I actually felt like this was normal, tolerable and manageable (more GTD lists + a spare calculator.)

Oh and about 3 years ago, my job was moved from Building 4 to Building 3 and I remember insisting to an academic that no such building existed, probably because I never sent anything to Building 4, and therefore had never addressed an envelope that way, and because the buildings on campus were not numbered consecutively - there was no building 5 or 6. Boy, I felt like a weirdo.
posted by b33j at 3:08 AM on April 14, 2008

Response by poster: Forgetting to do subtraction is a biggie (not to worry you or anything) but I can imagine it happening to me.

I get something similar when I forget the way to somewhere, even though I know the area pretty well.

I'm curious, b33j -- you hint at academia. I work in what is effectively an academic profession. I wonder if this is a symptom of absent-minded professor syndrome?
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 3:12 AM on April 14, 2008

Me, an academic? Shit, no! I'm a student and an ex-admin person.

Maybe smart people miss their brains more than less smart ones. Maybe smart people have more brains to lose. Maybe smart people think or talk about their brains more than less smart ones. Hard to tell with this size sample.
posted by b33j at 3:20 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

This happens to me as well. I'm a neuroscientist and don't know of a name for it, but I'm out of academia now so not so current.

The other night, I forgot how to do addition and realized after the fact I'd left the waiter an extremely large tip due to my faulty calculations.

I've noticed more mistakes with "easy" calculations and spelling as I get older. I've seen the same in my friends' emails -- people spelling "too" as "to", for example.

Not sure if this is a spellcheck phenom, where our PCs do everything for us, or an aging phenom, because these things are confounded.

Interesting question, but in my opinion, it's normal.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 4:07 AM on April 14, 2008

people spelling "too" as "to", for example.
I'm a bit of grammar nazi on the quiet and it drives me to dispair to see simple errors such as too/to lose/loose incorrectly written so frequently on the interwebs but to my horror I've found myself doing the same when typing online at speed, under pressure.

long haired lover, I can't offer any advice because I've always had little brain farts like this and have learned to live with them and move on. At least I can finally start to blame old age now ;-)
posted by ceri richard at 5:08 AM on April 14, 2008

Dispair hey? (~_^)
posted by gomichild at 5:28 AM on April 14, 2008

Anecdotal comfort: I responded and exchanged several emails with a former work colleague once before realizing it wasn't who I thought it was -- I had misread his name, even though it was spelled out pretty clearly in the headers. I think the technical term is "D'OH!"
posted by theredpen at 5:47 AM on April 14, 2008

Oh noes!!! Thanks gomichild. She says, through gritted teeth... ;-)

I swear, this is a perfect example of knowing perfectly well what should be written but fingers not obeying me when hitting the keyboard. Grrr.
posted by ceri richard at 6:22 AM on April 14, 2008

I do this sort of thing all the time and I'm not very old so don't have that excuse. In my defence, my parents did this a lot too so it's probably genetic. The term my dad use for this is not very polite: a brain fart.
posted by peacheater at 8:54 AM on April 14, 2008

I used to have a memory like a steel trap, but as I approach 40 I'm forgetting more and more things- names of actors, movies, etc. The other day we had a big get-together at our place with friends and family. A friend who was in from out of town pointed to my little toddler nephew and asked me his name. To my horror, I couldn't remember. Tried and tried and still couldn't remember. Finally he had to ask my sister-in-law, the tot's mother.

As our brains get older, I guess they don't work as efficiently. At least I hope that's all it is!
posted by bluekrauss at 10:41 AM on April 14, 2008

They were just talking about this over at 6chan.
posted by Doohickie at 1:07 PM on April 14, 2008

Take a look at this book - despite the somewhat cheesy title, it's a really interesting look at normal memory loss and brain "hiccups".
posted by CrazyGabby at 8:35 PM on April 14, 2008

I'm a bit of grammar nazi on the quiet and it drives me to dispair to see simple errors such as too/to lose/loose incorrectly written so frequently on the interwebs

I see this so often that I have started to automatically see correct usages as the incorrect versions! I've spent the last week in an odd state where I can't remember names of people or things. It comes to me eventually but it's been weird. `Hey, it's that guy... he was in that... thing'. I always know who I mean and what thing it was, but the names just aren't there.
posted by tomble at 9:07 PM on April 14, 2008

It's normal, I have to think for a second to remember how old I am. I'm...
posted by rhinny at 6:12 PM on April 15, 2008

Response by poster: I sometimes forget my age too. If I'm not careful, I spend half the day thinking I'm five years younger than I am. Even now if you ask the age of my sister, I might take a few seconds to reply.

My cousin spent a few years thinking he was a year younger than he was, because his mum told him he was. He knew his date of birth but never did the sums. But he was one of, like, a million kids, and his mum can be forgiven for forgetting details every now and again.
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 1:07 AM on April 16, 2008

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