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Introduction

According to correspondence theory, if you say or think something that does not correspond to reality then you have said something that is false. While this is an obvious concept learned in childhood, and while is true that we say many things that are false, we seldom say that ‘something is false’ — at least in Spanish. Instead, we distinguish between different types of falsities and use the idiomatic expression most appropriate to the situation.

The misconception falsity

Sometimes we say or think things that are not consistent with reality. Our perception malfunctions. If this happens, in Argentina we may say la (re) flasheé (Literally “I ‘flashed’ it”). Bear in mind that:

  • The expression per se is ‘neutral’ and just refers to confusion. It does not have any connotation of dishonesty or bad intention, nor does it imply a deliberate lie.
  • The expression does not necessarily allude to any kind of illusion, but to a confusion. In looking for an English equivalent I found ‘pipe dream’, but as I see this conveys the idea of an ‘impossible plan’. There isn't any need to have a ‘plan’ before confusing something.
  • The expression must be for the moment after you confused something. You can be in doubt and hence be confused. But this meaning is not equivalent to the Spanish term. Instead, you use it when you want to point out that you confused something after you said or did something wrong. I'm not sure if, for example, these words only fit in this category: befuddle, bewilder, muddle, flummox, etc. Besides they are not idiomatic, I don't know if they are used for the moment after the confusion took place— I would like to know these two last things are true, please.
  • My major concern is finding a word or expression that can be used as a verb.
  • I also appreciate answers in which the word can be used as a verb and also as an adjective/noun, but if I'm asking too much just forgive this item. The verb in Spanish is flashear and the correspondent adjectives are flashero/a.

Three examples:

—Our country has a lot of cows. Therefore, we can export all the food that comes from the cow: meat, milk, cheese, eggs, ...
—Eggs?? ¿Qué flasheás? ( What are you ‘flashing’? )
—Sorry, flasheé ( I ‘flashed’ ) that the eggs come from the cow.

—Sorry, flasheé ( I ‘flashed’ ) you were there. [Said, for example, in a football match after missing a pass to a teammate]

—Yesterday I saw flying pigs.
¡Qué flashero que sos! ( What a ‘flasher’ you are! )

In the last example, the word can be thought as alluding to an hallucination. But is not the general rule. If you want some references, you have this, this or this. But be careful because the word has a lot of different meanings, I'm just asking for one (or maybe two) of them.

EDIT As I see, it was a bad idea to put the literal translations of ‘flash’ and ‘flasher’. I thought it could help, but it creates more confusion, so excuse me for that. Ignore them, but I clarify here that I already know the English meaning of these two words. It's not necessary to repeat again that are false friends of the Spanish term.

P. S. I have a list for different kinds of falsities but I think it's more proper to post the expressions as separate questions.

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4 Answers 4

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There isn't really a verb for doing this in English, only nouns and noun phrases. "I had a mental aberration" or, as others have suggested the colloquialism brainfart or, for older people, senior moment (a joking reference to the tendency of elderly people to be absentminded).

(OK, as David has pointed out, there is a verbal expression for what you are not doing at such a time.)

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  • +1 Thanks for the clarity.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:50
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    @David - "It's awful" is just personal opinion. Plenty of British people do use it quite naturally. Oct 1, 2023 at 7:45
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    @David - Well, I've heard it in recent use by educated people. Oct 1, 2023 at 13:11
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    It's often used self-deprecatingly and (at least then) IMO totally uncringeworthy. Oct 1, 2023 at 13:40
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    The Google ngrams for "senior moment" would indicate that the expression is every bit as idiomatic in British use as in American use. Cambridge Dictionary and Longman list it with no caveat; Oxford Languages adds [humorous]. I strongly suspect yours is a minority view. Oct 1, 2023 at 18:20
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The most straightforward way to express this idea in English is, in my opinion:

I wasn’t thinking straight.

see the definition in the Cambridge Dictionary Online.

I would advise this over other suggestions so far because:

  1. It is a longstanding expression in both US and British English (at least since the 1920s, according to the Google Books ngram), rather than a currently popular phrase, which will soon become passé (if it is not so already). As a non-native speaker, the poster should be vary wary of current slang (“bonus points”, and the like): it is like trying to swear in a foreign language. Don’t, you will most likely appear either offensive or ridiculous.
  2. It is Anglo-Saxon, rather than Latin. Contrast the Germanic “think” to the Latin “mental”, and the “not straight” to the Latin “aberration”. As the speaker of a Romance language the poster may feel at home with latinate English, but the roots of the common English tongue often lie elsewhere.

As the poster might (or should) expect, there is no noun form. Different languages express ideas in different manners. There is a well-known book, first published in 1930, entitled “Straight and Crooked Thinking”, but “Crooked Thinking” is not a common expression on its own.

The questioner in the poster’s examples maght express his disbelief as “You’re not thinking straight!”, but is probably more likely to adopt a different form of words, e.g.:

—Eggs?? ¿Qué flasheás? (What are you ‘flashing’?)
— Eggs? What are you talking about?

—¡Qué flashero que sos! (What a ‘flasher’ you are! (?))
— Flying Pigs? You must be dreaming! or You dreamer!

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  • So, I don't understand if I should take this as an answer or as an advice. Actually, I was looking for idioms and slang words. I don't think that ‘think straight’ would count as such. And yes, I think I'm conscious of the scope and the ‘poor’ universality of slang expressions. I just asked for curiosity. Definitely I wouldn't say la re flasheé in professional environments, but I don't think that ‘think straight’ is on the same register
    – tac
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:01
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    @tac I would say that "think straight" is idiomatic, because in formal English one would use "carefully", "properly", "logically" etc., rather than "straight".
    – David
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:08
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Having a "senior moment" is a polite way of putting it.

Having a "Brain fart" is a less polite way, informal way.

Definitely do not use "flashing".

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    – Community Bot
    Sep 30, 2023 at 7:22
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    "Senior moment" strikes me as less polite to seniors, at least. It's a good suggestion, but if you use it, know your audience. Sep 30, 2023 at 18:49
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For your second example there is 'to confabulate':

to replace a gap in one's memory by a falsification that one believes to be true; engage in confabulation.

This is emphatically without the intention to lie or falsify. See also its Wikipedia entry.

Your third example could be an example of a more severe form of confabulation, if the speaker is completely convinced of this having happened.

But your first example is not confabulation, and seems way too broad to be considered falsification or even misconception: it is what I would simply call a mistake, confusion, or a lapse, caused by mixing two different categories; one being cow products, the other being standard kitchen necessities—eggs are often mistakenly categorized as dairy.

For all examples 'confusion' or its verb 'confuse' could work, but it's a very generic term:

to fail to distinguish between; associate by mistake; confound

Confusion is usually between things. The flying pigs could turn out to be inflatables (which still wouldn't necessarily disprove the claim).

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    Yeah, I think "I was confused" or "I got confused" etc would be a usual way of expressing this. What's idiomatic in one language is often expressed differently in another language (look at all the different ways of saying how old you are or what your name is, for instance).
    – Stuart F
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:37
  • confabulate is a very fancy word so it just doesn't sound like the right register.
    – Lambie
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:49
  • @Joachim The requirement is on the title. Did you read it?
    – tac
    Sep 30, 2023 at 21:43
  • @tac I did, but it must have slipped my mind (how fitting).
    – Joachim
    Oct 1, 2023 at 9:18
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    @tac Exactly, though I wonder if that will catch on :)
    – Joachim
    Oct 1, 2023 at 14:40

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