The human brain, with its processing speed of 2.2 billion megaflops utilizing parallel computing (100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses), is constantly processing stimuli to interpret the world. In order to process information more quickly, the human brain is designed to find meaning in patterns — in short, the brain is a pattern-recognizing supercomputer. Psychologists use the term apophenia or patternicity to describe the human tendency to perceive connections between or meaningful patterns within meaningless noise or random information. A common example of this, in the context of vision, is the pareidolia — the phenomenon of seeing a familiar pattern where it doesn’t exist. For example, seeing cloud formations that look like animals, seeing a face on the surface of Mars, or the face of a religious icon in a slice of toast.
When it comes to speech perception, as with vision, the brain is hardwired to look for patterns — many times listening for what it expects to hear rather than what is actually said, especially if the the words are not pronounced clearly. The brain immediately substitutes common words and phrases to fill in these sound gaps, making sense out of nonsense. Here are words that are related to how we process words.
Mondegreen: a misheard or misinterpreted lyric that yields a new meaning. For example, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cover of “Blinded by the Light” that includes the lyric “wrapped up like a deuce” that is misheard as “wrapped up like a douche.”
Malapropism: the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical statement. For example, “a vast suppository of information” when the correct phrase is “a vast repository of information”
Eggcorn: an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound very similar. For example, “for all intensive purposes” rather than “for all intents and purposes” or “old-timer’s disease” rather than “Alzheimer’s disease.”
Spoonerism: an error in speech when consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase. For example, “The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer” rather than “the rate of wages will press hard upon the employer.”
Freudian slip (also: slip of the tongue, parapraxis): an unintentional mistake in speech that reveals a person’s unconscious motives, desires, or attitudes. For example saying “I’m mad you’re here” when you meant to say “I’m glad you’re here.”
Mumpsimus: the practice of mispronouncing a word or phrase, even after they have been corrected. Also refers to the person who continues the practice. For example, you correct some that the proper phrase is “for all intents and purposes” but they continue to use the incorrect form “for all intensive purposes.”
Hobson-Jobson: a word from a foreign language is homophonically translated into one’s language. For example, the word cockroach from the Spanish word cucaracha.
Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
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For further reading: https://seeingcomplexity.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/the-brain-as-a-pattern-recognition-machine/