Learn English – it called when you accidentally mix two thoughts with the same meaning and end up saying something with the opposite meaning


A common example would be a famous story on Internet that spawned a meme where someone accidentally combined "Are you okay?" and "I'm fucking sorry" and ended up saying "Are you fucking sorry?"

A recent example was when someone I was discussing something with accidentally combined "handy" and "useful" and ended up saying that it was "handful". (If something is "a handful" then it's pretty problematic, not very useful.)

This kind of mixup when you two thoughts with the same meaning accidentally combine into something with the opposite meaning happens so often that there must be a word for it. I'm looking for that word.

Such a word would be used in a sentence like this:

Sorry, I just had an X.


X happens to me a lot, but when it does I usually catch it before I actually say it.

I'm thinking it could be something like "antonymic synonym compound", because it compounds two nearly synonymic thoughts into an antonymic sentence, but this really isn't my field at all so I'm just talking in my night cap. If there's a word for it then it's probably more psychology oriented rather than linguistics.

Should I maybe have asked this in the Psychology StackExchange instead?

Best Answer

Garble (verb) ~ to confuse or mix up (a quotation, story, message, etc.) unintentionally... A garbled message or report contains confused or wrong details, often because it is spoken by someone who is nervous or in a hurry.

Jumble (verb) ~ If you jumble things, they become mixed together so that they are untidy or are not in the correct order. Also ~ to confuse mentally; muddle.

Scramble (verb) ~ to put things such as words or letters in the wrong order so that they do not make sense: He had a habit of scrambling his words when excited.

  • Sorry, I just garbled [my words].
  • I apologize for garbling [my speech].
  • Jumbling happens to me a lot, but when it does I usually catch it before I actually say it.
  • That came out scrambled, I didn't mean it like that.
  • Try not to muddle it up, when you ask for a raise.

All are synonyms, and virtually interchangeable in this context.