Why We Act

Tip of the sword

Tip of the tongue phenomenon: when you have a specific word in mind, but can’t recall it. Like a masked villain, the word scampers from your custody at the critical moment. You scour the city. The word evades pursuit. You plead with a friend to name it. You reach for a thesaurus. The tension builds.

There’s a similar, less-researched, but equally common mental state: tip of the sword phenomenon. This is when you’re sure you have a crucial action you must take, a specific dragon to slay, but can’t put your finger on what exactly it is. Over drinks, you complain to your mates. They guess wildly at what the problem might be: maybe you need to take a vacation. Exercise more. Find a new job. No, you say. That’s not it. Not exactly.

Homo sapiens have been around for a hundred thousand years, and yet we’ve found only two reliable cures for tip of the tongue, tip of the sword: long walks and good sleeps.