One of my favourite bits of "Freudianism" is the concept of parapraxis (a pseudo-Greek scientism for what Freud called "Fehleistung" or "Faulty Action".  

In his 1901 book, "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life", Freud sub-classified these slips into three forms: 

Those of speech - or the tongue, known as "Versprechen".  

Those of memory, which he called Vergressen.

And those of action, Vergreifen. 

We are all familiar with Freud's belief that nothing of the mind was ever truly accidental or without deeper meaning; and such slips, he felt, were the consequence of deeper unconscious motivations - that there was, therefore, a hidden psychic determinant behind the parapraxis.    

Indeed, with that last typing of "Freud", I accidentally typed "Fried" - perhaps I am hungrier than I thought...?

Also referenced as "malapropisms”, our archetypal elderly relatives are replete with such slips: The Grandmother who, in waht we commonly consider the foibles of old age, runs through an inordinate number of names, items and appliances before settling upon the one she had been seeking, for example.  

Freud’s concept is further exemplified across our common experiences – from the vulgar: one need not elaborate upon the commonly utilized phrase for one deft with the skills of language and, no doubt, well-versed in slips of the tongue (a “cunning linguist”); to the famously political: 

"Gentlemen, I take notice that a full quorum of members is present and herewith declare the sitting closed." - an example favoured by Freud and often cited as having been stated by the President of the Lower House of the Austrian Parliament when a sitting was being opened.

And even to classical literature - from whence Freud also expounded using examples from Virgil's Aneid, and from which others have quoted Shakespeare - particularly Portia's advice to Bassanio in "The Merchant of Venice").  

More intriguingly, several appropriate to Freud's own therapeutic profession come swiftly to mind...

Conscience >> Con Science

Hypnoanalyst >> Hypo Anal Cyst.

Arguably, however, the most apt (or, perhaps, perverse) illustration of all, is one that might be “parapraxed” from the word "therapist" itself - a word intended to evoke feelings entirely antithetic to those into which it can be broken and misread: "THE RAPIST".  

Whilst one could spend many hours uncovering further examples (and please do send in some of your own), I believe this one potential slip makes an excellent springboard for a thought-provoking discussion:

How are therapists to remove themselves from the transference and delusion dilemma - a problem often couched with a level of fear and loathing akin to that most often reserved for those deviant subjects defined by the two words into which the profession might be "paraprax'ed"?  

This concept has implications on the insurance concerns of psychotherapists in an increasingly litigious world, on licensing issues for therapists, on the design and equipping of therapeutic facilities and on the marketing of, and (re)building of public confidence in, the therapeutic professions.

Although the concept is greatly studied, I feel there is much meat left on this mental bone - so, I shall leave the floor open and the couch prepared. for your thoughts...

10/11/2012 08:00:26 pm

Interesting.. Happens to TV presenters a lot and its hilarious. One host once said "Cuntas" instead of Qantas.

10/14/2012 02:05:22 am

Hey Dragonflu,

Thanks for the comment!

We've heard of this one - you can watch it here:


A related one happened in a conversation we were having once before - someone was talking about their Facebook profile and said that it was "as pubic as possible"...


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