SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: In case of parapraxis, take care lest your Freudian slip shows.


Long ago and far away, I read Peter Gay’s Freud: A Life for Our Time. I recall the biography as an excellent read.

Given the time of the book’s publication in 1988 and my employment dates at UMI-Data Courier, I probably read reviews of it in British periodical literature before purchasing.

I cannot recall whether parapraxis was mentioned.



noun, plural parapraxes [par-uh-prak-seez] Psychology.

1. a slip of the tongue or pen, forgetfulness, misplacement of objects, or other error thought to reveal unconscious wishes or attitudes.

Origin of parapraxis

Greek 1935-40; para-1+ Greek prâxis act, action; cf. praxis

Freud would have a field day in contemporary America.

What Freudian slips really reveal about your mind, by Zaria Gorvett (BBC)

Do our verbal stumblings unveil our unconscious desires – or are they simply an innocent glitch in the brain’s workings? BBC Future investigates.

… Ah, the Freudian slip. There are the things you want to say, the things you could get away with saying and the things it would be utterly disastrous to utter – which, invariably, are what actually comes out of your mouth. It’s the greatest fear of any public speaker. But what really causes these errors? And do they have any hidden meaning?

For Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, it wasn’t enough to simply ask his patients what they thought. Their true desires, he believed, could only be examined by paying attention to ‘slips of the tongue’ and other clues from the unconscious. A classic slip is, as the saying goes, when you say one thing and mean your mother.

Otherwise known as parapraxis, these verbal stumblings could reveal forbidden urges – such as sex and swearing – which were usually locked safely within the unconscious mind. Verbal errors aren’t random at all, but puzzles to be decoded.

There’s just one problem: Freudian slips, as with many of his other ideas, are extremely difficult to test. Freud may be as famous as Darwin, but many modern-day psychologists, linguists and neuroscientists think that he was wrong about almost everything. But was he wrong about this?