Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jamais Vu

Most people are accustomed with the term"déjà vu," which is the feeling or sensation that an unfamiliar/novel experience has been experienced before in the past. Many people, however, are not familiar with its opposite, "jamais vu", which is the feeling that something that should be familiar is actually unfamiliar. According to Wikipedia:
Jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before...Jamais vu is most commonly experienced when a person momentarily does not recognise a word, person, or place that he or she already knows...
I only bring this up because I have been experiencing this lately!

 Or am I just losing my brain cells?

Incident 1: I have an opal necklace that I frequently wear (Jeremy bought it for me as a graduation present). A couple weeks ago, a coworker admired the necklace,and asked if it was opal. I hesitated, because suddenly, I was no longer sure it was an opal. Part of me rationally knew that it HAD to be, but it just seemed....wrong. I kept thinking opal sounded like the wrong stone, and every time I said or thought of the word, it generated an image of a fake pearl. For days afterwards, I tried to recall exactly what the name of the stone was, even though my brain kept screaming, It's OPAL you moron!!!

Incident 2: My favorite news anchor is Shepard Smith. Although I don't get to listen to his program that often (it conflicts with my work schedule), he has been my favorite news anchor for several years now. During the aftermath of the recent Boston terrorist attack, I was listening to the news in my car, and the news reporter stated, "And now we take you to Shepard Smith, who is in Boston..." Suddenly, "Smith" sounded incredibly mistaken. In that moment, I had the feeling that his last name HAD to be something else, because it couldn't be "Smith."

Incident 3: I was in the car (again), listening to the radio. The song "Bittersweet Symphony" came on, and that's when this jamais vu crap hit me again. I was mentally snagged on the word "bittersweet." This time, it actually was a good feeling though. I was turning the word around in my head, marveling over the simplicity of it, and wondering why the English language didn't jam other contradictory words together, like "darkbright" or "nearfar."

This feeling has hit me several times even prior to these incidences (which I believe is the case for many people). I remember several years ago, when I had been up writing an essay for hours, I suddenly started to doubt the spelling of the word "the." In that moment, I was convinced I was misspelling it. I also recall a couple times repeating a word out loud over and over and OVER until the word lost its meaning and I started to doubt whether the word even existed. Wikipedia describes this as "brain fatigue".
Well, one word that I will never find unfamiliar is the word "mattress." I plan on collapsing on it.......right now.


  1. I actually love the word "jamais." It's my favorite French word. I love the way it sounds and being sort of cynical, the fact that it means "never" sort of speaks to me.

    That said, I have this problem all of the time but never knew that there was a term for it. Now I don't feel so bad about it knowing it's not just me, that others have this annoying problem, too. Suddenly, I feel much more normal than I did two minutes ago. lol

    1. Kristyn, I actually love the entire French translation: "Never seen." And it is a relief to discover you experience this too! (Misery loves company, right?)
      Pop Quiz: What was my "French" name in our French class? ;) Yours was "Marie", right?

    2. I want to say Nicole, but that doesn't seem right to me for some reason. Maybe I'm having Jamais Vu? lol. You're right, mine was Marie, but I cheated with that name since it's my middle name. ;)

    3. I know I know! *hand waving in air*


    4. YES! It was "Nadine"! And you weren't even in my French class! I wanted "Antoinette" but that got taken. :-(

  2. This is so fascinating--I had no idea there was an opposite to déjà vu.

    I've done the same thing with the word "the." That three-letter word makes almost no sense and is impossible to explain.

    I LOVE the word bittersweet, btw, to the point where I actually overuse it. I'm officially adopting the word "darkbright" into my vocabulary though--I don't care if it's real or not.

    So any clue how to pronounce this jamais-sucker?

    1. You have done this with "the" TOO?!!! Only you Jodi!

      Funny about you overusing "bittersweet." My favorite word is "instictively." I overuse it.

      I get copyright privileges on any use of "darkbright."

      Kristyn would probably have a better idea on pronunciation since she is into French more than I, but from my one hazy year of French class, I'm guessing it is pronounced Juh-May-Voo. The "J" is a softer pronounciation that is almost blended with a "shhh" like sound(not pronounced like the "j" in "jar". I think.

    2. Jamais is pronounced somewhat like JAW-MAY except the JAW part of that is pronounced like Zsa (as in Zsa Zsa Gabor). :)

    3. I'm thinking the "ja" part is pronounced exactly the same as the "ja" in déjà vu. Not quite that tall "awwww" sound, but just a softer "uh" sound, with the soft shhh/g beginning like you girls were describing.

      Okay, so it turns out that pronunciation is hard to capture in writing. =)

  3. Jamais Vu seems like a great spark for a story. I never knew there was such a phenomenon. I thought I was just getting old, like when I run down the names if my kids until I get the right one (like my grandpa used to do).

    1. Scott, I do the EXACT SAME thing with my children too. If I throw out enough names, eventually one of them is right. Sadly though, that is NOT an example of Jamais Vu (that's just an example of having too many frickin' kids). :)

      Now that you mention it, that could generate an interesting story. Sounds like a catchy title too. SO I trust you will get right on that real soon, and I look forward to reading the manuscript.:)

    2. Haha Scott! Just throw the whole "What to Name the Baby" book at 'em. One's bound to stick.


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