Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Déjà Vu & Its (Un)familiar Relatives

DÉJÀ VU

Noun phrase. Mid-20th century.
[French = already seen.]

1 PSYCHOLOGY. The illusory feeling of having already experienced the present moment or situation. E20
2 The (correct) impression that something similar has been previously experienced; tedious familiarity. M20

We've all experienced déjà vu - that rather curious feeling that we've witnessed something before. Alas, if you're prone to these odd sensations, it doesn't mean that you have 'the gift'. Rather, déjà vu has been explained scientifically as a mere memory glitch, an error in your brain where an experience is processed as a past memory rather than a new experience. 

Which is all rather familiar, but consider the lesser known but just as commonly experienced relatives of déjà vu. For example, there is déjà entendu (French for 'already heard'), the feeling that you've previously heard or understood something, such as words or music; this may or may not be illusory, as there is evidence that we can remember pieces of music we heard while in the womb. A similar experience is déjà lu ('already read'), which is applied to supposed familiarity with what one is reading. 

Perhaps the most interesting is jamais vu ('never seen'), sometimes described as the opposite of déjà vu. This is when you're struck with the unfamiliarity of something or someone that you know you're familiar with. This often occurs with words - sit down and write out the same word over and over; say, for example, 'rubble'. As you write it out, really study the word; very quickly it can start to look strange, foreign, and you might even start doubting it's a real word at all. Even more bizarrely, you can do this with family members or close friends. As a familiar person is talking to you, really study their features and mannerisms; if you do it for long enough, soon you can be overcome with the disquieting notion that you're looking at a complete stranger. In fact, some psychologists think that the same processing errors in the brain that prompt episodes of jamais vu are responsible for what's known as Capgras Delusion, in which the sufferer becomes convinced that someone close to him has been replaced by an impostor.

And finally, if you find these various vus interesting but think you'll struggle to remember the borrowed French terms used to describe them, then take comfort in that you'll soon experience presque vu ('almost seen'), which is otherwise known as something being on the tip of one's tongue; it's that irritating, nagging, oh-I'm-so-close feeling when you're trying to remember something but for whatever reason your brain just won't make that final connection. And talking of vus, that word is starting to look weird ...

RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE
RUBBLE RUBBLE RUBBLE

Have you experienced déjà vudéjà entendudéjà lu, jamais vu or presque vu?

Are there any other vus that should be added?

Do please leave your most (un)familiar comments in the box below.

6 comments:

  1. I get this every time I check a word in the Romanian/English dictionary. "Was sure I had learned that word "

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    1. I seem to experience presque vu more and more these days, whichever language I'm speaking. Must be me age!

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  2. I know if I start paying attention - real attention - I'll have the jamais vu... and I think I have all the vus I can handle ahahah

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    1. I sometimes forget how to spell words like 'which', and then however I look at them they're not right.

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  3. "Capgras Delusion, in which the sufferer becomes convinced that someone close to him has been replaced by an impostor".
    Remember the Mirror Man where he saw his own reflection in the mirror as an imposter who mimicked everything he did, wore the same clothes and followed him wherever he went. The imposter even went off with his wife at times.

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    1. I know I mention this every time someone mentions a mirror, but one of my most interesting Lexi finds was the 'negative autoscopy', a condition that prevents you from seeing your own reflection in a mirror.

      Click here to read about it.

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