My wife: Can you get me some more coffee?
Me: Sure, where is your cup?
Wife: It's on the thing.
Me: Where?
Wife: the thing...err...end table.


Wife: Can you pick up the pictures on your way home?
Me: Sure. Where are they being developed?
Wife: At the place. On your way home. You know.
Me: No I do not know. There are lots of places in the 25 miles I drive to and from work.

Is there a word or condition for someone who cannot properly identify nouns in a sentence?

  • 5
    This rather seems like a private domestic matter between you and your um, nominally-challenged wife. :) – tchrist Dec 3 '14 at 15:45
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    Short of aphasic, simply tongue-tied or absent-minded, maybe? – Dan Bron Dec 3 '14 at 15:46
  • @tchrist I acknowledge that there are many people who have this quality (not only the OP's wife). Almost everybody does it from time to time, but there are some people who don't use proper nouns very often. I would be also interested in word to name them. – nuoritoveri Dec 3 '14 at 15:51
  • 2
    Side question: do you really still develop photos? – Dan Bron Dec 3 '14 at 15:52
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    ha! yes. She makes scrapbooks for the kids. – Jeff Dec 3 '14 at 15:56

I think it may be a case of: anomic aphasia: (from Wikipedia)

  • (also known as dysnomia, nominal aphasia, and amnesic aphasia) is a disorder which causes problems with recalling words or names.

  • Sometimes subjects may know what to do with an object, but still not be able to give a name to the object. For example, if a subject is shown an orange and asked what it is called, the subject may be well aware that the object can be peeled and eaten, and may even be able to demonstrate this by actions or even verbal responses – however, they cannot recall that the object is called an "orange." Sometimes, when a person with this condition is multilingual, they might confuse the language they are speaking in trying to find the right word.

  • Interesting. I will research this. Thank You to all who have posted. – Jeff Dec 3 '14 at 15:58
  • 1
    A link and a book for your research. asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Aphasia/… refers to different types of aphasia. A book that this page cites (and seems to be cited by others frequently) is Aphasiology: Disorders and Clinical Practice. Hope that helps. – rajah9 Dec 3 '14 at 16:21
  • Reminds me of CSI:NY. Good old days… – Blackhole Dec 3 '14 at 19:16
  • Anomic aphasia is a serious condition resulting from a stroke. If you ever saw it, you'd stop giving this answer (I've commented on it before) for a temporary difficulty finding the right noun, which, in my experience, is relatively very common. – anongoodnurse Dec 3 '14 at 19:30
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    How about people who seem to have no problem recalling words, but who seem to use pronouns with no antecedents regardless? This seems like a very common and aggravating tendency. I think the people lack some ability to view how their message will be (or, could possibly be) received by the listener. I might call them Anti-Antecedites. – ardave Dec 3 '14 at 21:22

Medically, Josh61's answer is spot on. But anomic aphasia is generally reserved for individuals who have suffered some sort of brain damage or head trauma.

Nevertheless, this sort of forgetfulness happens to otherwise normal people every day. In these cases, we wouldn't use anomic aphasia, but instead we call it the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon.

The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon describes the case where an individual is unable to remember the specific word or phrase, but is otherwise able to recall specific details (sometimes including the first letter or syllable) and other associated memories about the thing described by the word or phrase.

Often, the individual will eventually recall the word or phrase. Sometimes, this may happen hours or even days later.

We have a few idiomatic phrases to describe when we experience the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon:

tip of the tongue

The name sake of tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. In day-to-day speech, we might say things like: "It's on the tip of my tongue!"

"Tip of the tongue" attempts to describe the feeling that the word or phrase is just sitting on the tip of the speaker's tongue, and the speaker is unable to get it out of their mouth.

brain fart

This is probably the second most common phrase I have ever heard to describe this. The idea is that your brain suddenly stops working.

It comes not from the "flatulence" meaning of fart, but more from the association with sudden and complete disruption that a loud, obnoxious fart can bring. If you've ever been in a room that's gone suddenly quiet after someone lets a loud one rip, you'll know what I'm talking about.

In this sense, brain fart like your brain just farted, and then came to a complete standstill. In speech, you might say: "Ohh...uhh...what is the word...? Dang, brain fart!"

draw a blank

Drawing a blank invokes the images of drawing a blank or useless item from a pile (or deck, or stack, etc.) It's believed to come from an old lottery practice, where tickets (bearing the names of the people who purchased them) were mixed in with one or more blank tickets. If the blank ticket came up, then no one won a prize.

In our case, it's meant to invoke an image as if the individual went to pull the memory, and came up with a blank memory. In speech we might say: "I should remember her name; I'm drawing a blank."

  • 3
    I always thought a "brain fart" was a stupid idea that just popped into your head (and which perhaps you then blurted out without due consideration) rather than a moment of forgetfulness – Anentropic Dec 3 '14 at 17:54
  • @Anentropic I wonder if that's a regional variation. I've lived in a couple states on the US West Coast, and that's always been the definition I've seen used. – Nick2253 Dec 4 '14 at 15:00
  • I'm in UK and I'd say "brain fart" is definitely an "Americanism" from our perspective, I am only familiar with it from written usage on the internet, blogs, twitter etc. Just my personal impression, who's to say! :) – Anentropic Dec 4 '14 at 15:30

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