Lapsus linguae

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Yesterday I gave a lecture on the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age "mummies" (they're really desiccated corpses, but "mummies" sounds cuter) of Eastern Central Asia before an audience of about twenty-five at the Franklin Inn Club in Philadelphia.

I was talking about a Swedish archeologist named Folke Bergman (1902-1946), who worked with the great Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin (1865-1952).  Because I had so much ground to cover in a limited time (only about 45 minutes), I was moving quickly, and instead of saying "Folke Bergman", out popped "Ingmar Bergman" (1918-2007), the name of the Swedish film director and producer.  I saw a few heads turn and eyes bulge in the audience and immediately realized what had happened, but by that time I had moved on to something else and didn't want to interrupt the flow of my train of thought.

Nobody brought it up during the Q & A, because we had so many other pressing issues to discuss (climate change, linguistic affiliations, symbolism of the burials, etc., etc.).

Such things happen, both in speech and in writing:  lapsus linguae ("slip of the tongue") and lapsus calami ("slip of the pen"). Hopefully, they do not cause too much damage.

[h.t. Cecilia Segawa Seigle]


  1. D.O. said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 10:07 am

    I am sorry if it is rude, but how can you give a "hat tip" when conveying a personal anecdote? You obviously didn't need to be pointed toward what happened in this instance.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    Dr. Seigle was present in the audience and she mentioned the gaffe in an e-mail written to me this morning. If she had not done so, I would not have written this post.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    From J. P. Mallory:

    That's nothing. Centuries ago as I was packing to return to Belfast (in Oxnard California) I was listening to the democratic convention on the radio when Jimmy Carter was summoning up the name of great democrats from the past and mentioned Hubert Horatio Hornblower (which tells us a lot of what he reads but very little about Johnson's vice-president). A little more than a small group heard that gaffe.

  4. Patrick B said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

    A really good one is called a lapsus lazuli.

  5. Rubrick said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

    An amusing anecdote, Mr. Hugo.

  6. Ralph Hickok said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

    Radio announcer/actor Harry von Zell famously referred to Herbert Hoover as "Hoobert Heever," and a BBC anounncer once introduced Sir Stafford Cripps as "Sir Stifford Crapps."

  7. Robert Coren said,

    July 2, 2016 @ 11:01 am

    I've always assumed that Carter's Humphrey gaffe was influenced by Humphrey's reputation for long-windedness.

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