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slip of the tongue (SOT)


slip of the tongue (SOT)

Slips of the tongue


A mistake in speaking, usually trivial, sometimes amusing.

As David Crystal has noted, studies of tongue slips have revealed "a great deal about the neuropsychological processes that underlie speech" (The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed., 2010).

See also:


A translation of the Latin, lapsus linguae, cited by John Dryden in 1667.

Examples and Observations:

  • "[British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown made a "slip of the tongue" when he said the world was in a depression, a Downing Street spokesman said today. . . . Brown has acknowledged that Britain is in a recession, a fact that became indisputable recently."
    (Andrew Sparrow, "Gordon Brown's Use of the Word 'Depression' Was a Slip of the Tongue, Says No 10." The Guardian, Feb. 4, 2009)

  • "We need laws that protect everyone. Men and women, straights and gays, regardless of sexual perversion . . . ah, persuasion . . .."
    (New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, quoted by Robert Louis Young in Understanding Misunderstandings: A Practical Guide to More Successful Human Interaction. Univ. of Texas Press, 1999)

  • "The Badger State boasts [John] Kerry's most famous slip of the tongue: the time he declared his love for 'Lambert Field,' suggesting that the state's beloved Green Bay Packers play their home games on the frozen tundra of the St. Louis airport."
    (Chris Suellentrop, "Kerry Puts the Gloves On." Slate, October 16, 2004)

  • Types of Slips of the Tongue
    "Normal speech contains a large number of such slips, though these mostly pass unnoticed. The errors fall into patterns, and it is possible to draw conclusions from them about the underlying mechanisms involved. They can be divided into (1) Selection errors, where a wrong item has been chosen, usually a lexical item, as with tomorrow instead of today in That's all for tomorrow. (2) Assemblage errors, where the correct items have been selected, but they have been assembled in the wrong order, as in holed and sealed for 'soled and healed.'"
    (Jean Aitchison, "Slip of the Tongue." The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)

  • Causes of Slips of the Tongue
    "Most everyday slips of the tongue . . . are often simply the result of a sound being carried over from one word to the next, as in black bloxes (for 'black boxes'), or a sound used in one word in anticipation of its occurrence in the next word, as in noman numeral (for 'roman numeral'), or a tup of tea ('cup'), or the most highly played player ('paid'). The last example is close to the reversal type of slip, illustrated by shu flots, which may not make you beel fetter if you're suffering from a stick neff, and it's always better to loop before you leak. The last two examples involve the interchange of word-final sounds and are much less common than word-initial slips."
    (George Yule, The Study of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010)

  • Predicting Slips of the Tongue
    "[I]t is possible to make predictions about the form tongue slips are likely to take when they occur. Given the intended sentence 'The car missed the bike / but hit the wall' (where / marks an intonation/rhythm boundary, and the strongly stressed words are italicized), the likely slips are going to include bar for car or wit for hit. Most unlikely would be har for car (showing the influence of a less prominent word in the second tone unit) or lit for hit (showing a final consonant replacing an initial one)."
    (David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010

  • Freud on Slips of the Tongue
    "If a slip of the tongue that turns what the speaker intended to say into its opposite is made by one of the adversaries in a serious argument, it immediately puts him at a disadvantage, and his opponent seldom wastes any time in exploiting the advantage for his own ends."
    (Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), trans. by Anthea Bell. Penguin, 2002)

  • The Lighter Side of Tongue Slips
    Jerry: For my murinal, I was inspired by the death of my grandma.
    Tom: You said murinal!
    [Everyone laughs]
    Jerry: No, I didn't.
    Ann: Yes, you did. You said murinal. I heard it.
    Jerry: Anyway, she--
    April: Jerry, why don't you put that murinal in the men's room so people can murinate all over it?
    Tom: Jerry, go to the doctor. You might have a murinary tract infection.
    [Jerry takes down his mural and walks away defeated.]
    Jerry: I just wanted to show you my art.
    Everyone: Murinal! Murinal! Murinal!
    ("The Camel," Parks and Recreation, 2010)

    "I understand you have taken exception to my calling you whores. I'm sorry. I apologize. I ask you to note that I did not call you callous-ass strumpets, fornicatresses, or low-born gutter sluts. But I did say 'whores.' No escaping that. And for that slip of the tongue, I apologize."
    (Paul Newman as Roy Bean in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972)

    "Maizie said, 'At Shari's, for only fifteen dollars, you can get a haircut and a blow job.'

    "'Oh?' The gentleman looked surprised . . . and interested.

    "Violet leaned over and said, 'She means a blow dry.'

    "'Oh,' he said, his voice dropping as the full realization of his loss occurred to him."
    (Tina Welling, Crybaby Ranch. New American Library, 2008)
Also Known As: lapsus linguae, tongue-slip

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