December 7, 2021

A slip is a mistake made by speaking (lapsus linguae), by writing (lapsus calami), whether by hand or on the keyboard (we sometimes say lapsus clavis), by reading, whether aloud or mentally ( lapsus lectionis), by memory (lapsus memoriae) or by gestures (lapsus gestuel or lapsus manus) and which consists for a person to express something other than what he had planned to express. From a linguistic point of view, it is to substitute one form for another.


The Latin name lapsus, us, m. "slip" related to the verb labor which means "to stumble, slip" then "to make a mistake".


In the nineteenth century, criminologists, linguists, psychologists published on slips as a link between language error and "hidden thought". In 1880, Hans Gross gave examples of slips and failed acts. In 1895, Rudolf Meringer and the linguist Karl Mayer published a book on slip-ups.

Psychoanalytic approach

Freud sees the slip of the tongue as an important symptom of the emergence of unconscious desires. The popularization of Freudian psychoanalysis has since ensured the success of the word. For Freudian theory, the feeling of shame or uneasiness that can arise after a slip is significant that the unconscious has manifested itself by thwarting the barriers of our internal censor or Superego. In general, this discomfort is fleeting and humor allows it to be overcome without any problem. Indeed, according to this approach, we are not responsible for our thoughts. They come to us from the unconscious and if we are responsible for our words as for our actions, we cannot consider as responsible for his words someone who expresses an "involuntary" thought.

The unconscious mechanics of the slip

It was in 1901 in Psychopathology of Daily Life that Sigmund Freud detailed the operation of the slip as he understood it most precisely. In this work he also deals with several manifestations of the unconscious in our everyday life such as the question of forgetting proper names or common names, questions related to childhood memories as well as forgetfulness or missed acts. With regard to the lapsus, whether it be the lapsus linguae (chapter 5) or the lapsus calami (chapter 6), Freud clearly specifies that these two types of slip are of the same nature and that the mechanism which explains the former is the same as that which accounts for the latter. As in many of his works, Freud reviews the solutions that have been proposed before him to explain a phenomenon that he was not the first to point out since slip-ups are probably as old as language itself. One of the explanations that was in vogue in Freud's time was that slip-ups would come from a kind of mechanical "contamination" of the sounds between them. He evokes in particular the work of Wilhelm Wundt the Psychology of the peoples which recognizes in the slip the possibility of certain psychic influences, in particular by a process of association acting in two ways: There would be first of all a positive condition which "consists in the free and spontaneous production of tonal and verbal associations caused by the sounds uttered"; And on the other hand “a negative condition, which consists in the suppression or in the relaxation of the control of the will and the attention”. Freud amplifies the remarks of Wundt and points out that “the positive factor, favoring the slip, that is, the free course of associations, and the negative factor, that is, the relaxation of the inhibitory action of attention, almost always act simultaneously, so that these two factors represent two conditions , also essential, from a single process. In other words, it is because the release

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