Even a Ph.D. physicist forgets his words from time to time, just like all of us
It seems on a daily basis a word I’m trying to think of escapes me. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s that having kids has sucked any short or long term memory I used to possess out of my brain, forever. If anyone else experiences this on the daily, this next Twitter thread is for you.
Paul Coxon — a physicist in materials science at the University of Cambridge — admitted he, too, forgot what he was trying to say during a meeting with colleagues and instead of saying the word “photon” decided “shiny crumb” would have to suffice.
Hello my name is Paul, I have a PhD in physics and thanks to a random brain freeze forgot the word for photon so had to call it a “shiny crumb” in front of my colleagues 😐
— Paul Coxon (@paulcoxon) February 18, 2019
“Hello my name is Paul, I have a PhD in physics and thanks to a random brain freeze forgot the word for photon so had to call it a “shiny crumb” in front of my colleagues,” he wrote. Oh, Paul, we’ve all been there and we are so happy someone with your education also has brainfarts from time to time.
People were quick to jump and make Paul feel better about himself:
One of the guys I used to work with forgot the name for a tape measure - called it a "how far machine" - it's passed into everyday vocabulary now!— susan long (@hardleygirl) February 20, 2019
Haha my sympathies. Shiny crumb is a much better name for it. My 17yo forgot the word for “foal” in the summer and called it a “horse puppy” instead. I don’t think any one of us will ever use the word “foal” again...— Mel clarke (@Bramptonmel) February 18, 2019
My brother in law forgot the word "saddle", and came up with "horse seat".— Dr. Sundry Letters (@SalCross) February 18, 2019
One of my cleverest and most fabulous friends at university (now PhD in neuroscience) once forgot the word for what she wanted in a restaurant and tried to explain with “like a really REALLY wet salad”.— Wesley Mallin (@wesleymallin) February 18, 2019
She wanted soup.
Soup shall forever be known as “a really wet salad.”
“My department has lots of very bright students and researchers from all over the world and I have immense respect for my colleagues studying for PhDs in what may be their second or even third language,” Coxon tells Bored Panda. “Since my Tweet, lots of people on Twitter replied sharing the times their minds have gone blank and forgotten words, and lots have been hilarious. The human mind is remarkable.”
The people did not disappoint:
Not in the same delightful league, but in the final throes of writing SATC, I forgot the word 'fork' while sitting in a restaurant. I asked a waiter for "one of the metal things with four stabby fingers". Obviously, he looked at me like I was insane 😂— Laurie Winkless (@laurie_winkless) February 19, 2019
Hi. I’m Elizabeth. I have a First Class BA(Hons) and thanks to a random brain freeze forgot my husband’s name when introducing him to the Chairman of the Board of the company at which I worked.— Elizabeth Cottuli (@cuigcead) February 18, 2019
When I was pregnant with my first, I cried one day because I forgot the word "banana."— danish butter cookies (@fisty) February 19, 2019
I described it to my then-husband, "It comes it its own case! It's yellow!"
I forgot the word ‘articulate’ in an interview for a voluntary post and instead said ‘I’m good at saying things’. I am a criminal barrister— Kathy Hirst (@kathy_hirst) February 18, 2019
I’m a prosecutor. During a particularly dramatic closing argument years ago, I forgot the defendant’s name. “And that’s why you should find … (pause) … (pause) … THAT GUY guilty!”— I Am The Egg, Man. (@POBrien14) February 19, 2019
And so I learned why prosecutors always say “the defendant.” 🙂
Once when I was calling to make my then seven-month-old son his well-check appointment, the nurse asked for his date of birth, I froze. “Um, I know it was warm. Sorry, he’s my third. I’m pretty sure it was in August,” I stammered. After an uncomfortable pause, she asked for his first and last name (which I did remember) and after some typing, she said, “The seventh. He was born on September 7th.”
Apparently, there is a word for forgetting your words — lethologica. According to the BBC, the active vocabulary used by an adult in speech and writing often exceeds 50,000 words, so its no wonder we sometimes have a brain freeze and can’t recall the exact word we need.
“I was talking with a colleague about how we can control the routes photons, ie particles of light can take as they pass through the various solar photovoltaic materials and my mind just went blank,” Coxon continues. “We were in the department tea room and there were crumbs on the table so I guess my mind just jumped and switched photons – a word I must say dozens of times a day, for ‘shiny… crumbs.’ I can’t properly describe it. We both saw the funny side.”
Thank you, sir, for reminding us just how funny a brain fart can be.