We’ve all been there. You’re on a roll with some spontaneous train of thought, then the train gets derailed. “After London, we left for Paris and were held up at Heathrow because of a problem with the plane’s … er, uh…oh, what was that thingy—?”
hard drive brain freezes, and it’s not because of a milk shake. The right word simply escapes you; your speech processor is offline. You know what you want to say, but the concept just won’t form.
There are terms for this sort of thing, and we happily present a….wait, we’ve got this…..oh- er, um, OK—list. That’s what it is.
If you’re befuddled, you’re just clueless. No chance of pulling out of this dive. Look in Google Images for Elmer Fudd. That’s befuddled, you wascally wabbits.
You’ve totally fallen apart. Dictionary.com says it’s “to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate.” Example: “She became totally discombobulated when giving her presentation.”
This is sort of like being thrown off your mark. We call disconcerted “disturbed, as in one’s composure or self-possession; perturbed;ruffled: She was disconcerted by the sudden attack on her integrity.” Also, “bewildered or confused, as by something unexpected: the class was disconcerted by the instructor’s confusion.”
You are completely stuck. You got nuthin’. Dumbfounded means “To make speechless with amazement; astonish.” Example: “After listening to the President’s speech, I was totally dumbfounded.” (Disclaimer: the example provided may or may not necessarily reflect current events.)
The word dumbstruck is merely a variant of dumbfounded. You’re “temporarily deprived of the power of speech, as if by surprise or confusion; dumbfounded.”
Our definition of flabbergasted states you are totally stunned. (You are) “overcome with surprise and bewilderment.” The “flabber” part sounds kind of funny on its own, but it isn’t a recognized word. And that’s OK.
Flummoxed means “bewildered, confounded, and confused.” This is not often used in a sentence these days. A current usage might be, “He was really flummoxed when the boss called on him in the meeting.” Bottom line, you know it when you see it, or worse, when you feel it.
The word nonplussed is a term you don’t hear a lot, but it’s out there. When nonplussed is used as a noun, this means “a state of utter perplexity.”
You are totally thunderstruck. (That is a good word to use, too!) If you are rendered speechless, you’re “temporarily deprived of speech by strong emotion, physical weakness,exhaustion, etc.: speechless with alarm.” Another good word in this case comes from the UK: gobsmacked! No one in the US will ever use that one unless they’re a BBC junkie, but in London you’re totally on point.
Remember when you met your girlfriend/boyfriend’s parents for the first time? Yeah, it’s like that. Tongue-tied means “Unable to speak, as from shyness, embarrassment, or surprise.” If you find yourself tongue-tied, you often end up suffering from a parallel condition known as flop sweat.