Posted by: Bystander PJ18 JUN 2010
As the old joke goes, there are three things I have trouble remembering: names, faces and … I forget the other one.
But I certainly can have trouble with names. I often find during conversation that when I am about to refer to some acquaintance or famous figure, I suddenly find that the name has completely gone from my head, even though I may have a vivid mental image of the person. It happens to me all the time.
But the weird thing is that it is selective. There are some names I can always remember, even though I would sometimes rather not, and others that I regularly have trouble with. And for some reason the phenomenon is particularly apparent in the world of music, one of my major interests.
For instance, much to my embarrassment I can still invariably name all the Spice Girls but I can never remember the name of that famous eccentric Australian composer — you know, whatshisface* — and for years I had trouble with a world-renowned reggae star, although I now seem to have recovered from that particular failing and can usually remember that he was called Bob Marley.
To reduce the risk of humiliation I have started telling people I suffer from transient onomastic amnesia, or TOA for short. My theory is that anything that sounds like a rare medical condition may attract sympathy rather than scorn.
But maybe my name-blindness really is a medical condition. After all, an inability to recognise faces is seen as such and has been given the grandiose name prosopagnosia (from Greek prosopon, face, a-, non-, and gnosis, knowledge).
The term is usually applied to face-blindness that results from acute damage to an area of the brain’s temporal lobe known as the fusiform gyrus, but recent evidence suggests that a congenital form of the disorder may exist.
So why should name-blindness not also have a pretentious medical term bestowed upon it? Do you think that onomagnosia sounds better than TOA?
(* It was Percy Grainger, but I had to Google a few key words to find him — again.)