What is the term for incorrectly injecting the wrong word into conversation because of a mental flaw that pulls a word that is alliterative or related? An example that got me searching for the term:

A well trained bicycle mechanic will be able to judge the correct temperature of spokes by ear.

What I meant was tension of course. In this case I was able to recognize that the wrong word was used, leading to a tip-of-the-tongue syndrome thing where I attempted to come up with the correct word.

I guess the word or term I'm looking for is the term that would best describe an unconscious substitution of a word into normal conversation that could fall into the domain of tip-of-the-tongue syndrome, and whatever the related transactional memory defects are that cause it.


3 Answers 3


Use of a word other than the one intended is broadly a slip of the tongue, though if you want to attribute the substitution to the revelation of an unconscious thought, it can be a case of parapraxis, colloquially known as the Freudian slip (Freud's word was Fehlleistungen).

In the example you've provided, where a word is substituted with a similar-sounding word resulting in nonsense, the slip is a malapropism, although for someone like me for whom detecting tension by ear is no less nonsensical than detecting temperature, it might qualify as an eggcorn. If you were repeating a phrase that you had misheard (as from a song or poem), it would be a mondegreen.


You may be thinking of malapropism.

I'm not sure what you mean by "related transactional memory defects", but there must be a wire crossed somewhere in the brain that causes one to utter a malapropism.

  • +1 From your source article: A malapropism (also called a Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance. An example is Yogi Berra's statement: "Texas has a lot of electrical votes,"[1] rather than "electoral votes".
    – Lumberjack
    Oct 21, 2013 at 20:08
  • 'Malapropism' from the character Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play 'The Rivals'. e.g. 'The Foreign secretary made a speech in the House of Columns (Commons), then danced the flamingo (flamenco) all night long'
    – WS2
    Oct 21, 2013 at 20:27
  • 1
    There was an American comedian named Norm Crosby who based his act almost entirely on malapropisms. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_Crosby. Very funny guy in his day.
    – adj7388
    Oct 21, 2013 at 20:38
  • 3
    There have been a number of such conical fellows. Often they combine Malapropisms with Spoonerisms ( after the Revd W.A.Spooner). Often though, the moint is pissed by the audience!
    – WS2
    Oct 21, 2013 at 20:53
  • Anyone familiar with the American TV show "Saturday Night Live" certainly knows that the Coneheads were conical. ;-) ... I wonder what you call a pun crossed with a malapropism?
    – adj7388
    Oct 21, 2013 at 21:32

Freudian slip, when the incorrectly inserted word relates to something you were thinking or unconsciously feeling. These are often embarrassing, as when you intend to say "I'll meet you at six", but say instead "I'll meet you for sex"!

Malapropism, when you have unintentionally used an incorrect, but similar-sounding word.

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