Electronic Voice Phenomena       


Tip-of-the-Tongue Phenomena

Posted 22 April 2013 by | Comments Off


In Willem Levelt’s Speaking: From Intention to Articulation, I came across a description of the ‘Tip-of-the Tongue’ state, the name for that common experience of being almost but not quite able to remember a word. Levelt is interested in what happens when the TOT state is brought about in experiments; he uses the example of the word ‘sextant’. ‘Subjects’, he writes, ‘tended to guess /s/ as the initial phoneme and two as the number of syllables,’ whilst ‘sound-related words like secant and sextet’ and ‘meaning-related words, e.g. compass’, also occurred. In this series of poems, I tried to hold myself in that Tip-of-the-Tongue state as I ‘wrote through’ a series of early and mid-80s top ten hits. Click on ‘TARGET’ to hear the sources.

- James Wilkes



ok so it’s something like
asses for assam
fun run for funding

ants for antoine
friends for friendship

think of the military
tealeaf smokers
clagging the mouth
dusty powder

with altitude sickness
look at the stars

and was it –
getting all weepy
and low
was it?




pins are…in!
pigs are…in!
laughter is the best
if you’re not being laughed at

then it goes
dumbo’s venture
dumbo’s big adventure
very well dressed and manifestly fit

no not pins it’s more
pink salami
pincer movement
or even peas
it’s possible
under the bed
but more masculine
than that




it goes
aye doe… aye doe

aye doe cash advance
france wither maybe namur

no. start again.
you got sam’s eyebrows
browse in a safety net, or

you damn warner bros
brush up your bentley no more

well anyway it’s something about
losing all my limbs
and it’s negative affect
negative affect




an umbilical girl
the kind of girl gets
special deliveries
by private courier
in a brown van

that’s her world
all ‘upton country park’ mate
peacocks and deer
that’s the ambience not
the mechanics and dockers of
the old clinic




it’s /n/
it’s /n/
it’s numerous, a number of, of
Rhenish ballads gone bad, like
a nightly mind…reading tool
a rubberised cloud or
something like an airline?

it’s /n/ and /n/, it’s a noise anointed
a rebel tune




it’s got his spry tone
kind of dry and low
like a deccan lion
high, low then stays low

it’s got a wry sound
maybe bright sound
like a mecca bingo
bright down-town sound

it zips me my bones
labile overcoat
spike and groove shiver
smooth ground globe shot




it was a /r/
it was a /r/
it was a roastbeef butty
a rustbelt
some kind of berry
uhh… fruit sorbet
kind of pink fruit
on her head
a rose
buried beneath
a king
the kindness you find
in a strange land




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Creative work at the intersections of speech, poetry, and neuroscience. A project by James Wilkes. Introduction.

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Tip-of-the-Tongue Phenomena