It’s one thing to make a typo on your resume, but we know of a worse kind of mistake: calling your boy or girlfriend the name of a previous paramour. Or perhaps you’re talking to your boss and out of your mouth pops an obscene word that rhymes with what you meant to say.
These slips, of tongue, the keyboard, or the pen, are generally termed “Freudian,” but are also known as parapraxis. The specific types of harebrained errors have their own fancy names as well. First, Dr. Sigmund Freud deserves a moment.
Among his achievements, Freud introduced a wealth of ways to think and talk about meaning and language. You know it as the Freudian slip, but the founder of psychoanalysis called it Fehlleistungen, German for “faulty actions.” His theory of the slip, in simple terms, was that your unconscious thoughts and desires override your conscious intention and bam! you say something you’ll probably regret.
Parapraxis is derived from two Greek roots, para, “aside,” and “praxis, “a transaction.” Psychology introduced this term, maybe because it’s easier to say than Fehlleistungen. Its exact definition is “a slip of the tongue or pen, forgetfulness, misplacement of objects, or other error thought to reveal unconscious wishes or attitudes.”
You can also thank whoever came up with the following sharp names for various types of parapraxia. Generally, an example of one is called a lapsus. A slip of the tongue is lapsus linguae, literally Latin for “slip of the tongue.” A lapsus calami is “a slip of the pen.”
Next time you tell someone that a shirt makes them look fat when you intend to say slim, maybe you should try using the excuse that you are “guilty of parapraxia.” Just be sure that you don’t slip up.
We’re collecting examples of classic parapraxis. What’s your most embarrassing incident? Let us know.