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Tracking Down the "Embarrassing Memory" Noise

Compelled to Blurt... | Ask Metafilter

Like a lot of people in this Ask Metafilter thread, I thought I was the only person in the universe who made an unconscious little noise when remembering something stupid I did or said.

It's not especially loud, in fact it's often under my breath. The sound is usually just a quiet grunt, or a word/syllable or two. If I remember an embarrassing conversation, I tend to blurt out a random word of the conversation (as in, I'm replaying the dialogue in my head but then all the sudden one of the words pops out of my mouth). If it happens while I'm reading, I tend to blurt out one or two of the words that happen to be under my eyes at the moment.

For context, my tic (which can also be heard when someone near me does something dumb) sounds a little like the noise Leo Bloom makes after he falls on his keys (00:34). "Ooooooom...."

The Question to You

Anyone else do this? Anybody out there qualified to talk about the psychology or neuroscience behind this apparent phenomenon? I’ll bet there’s a cool, scientific name for it.

happywaffle's picture


I registered just to comment on this one. I knew everyone had embarrassment flashbacks, some as constantly as me, but I didn't know everyone made audible sounds at the event! I tend to unconsciously repeat part of a phrase I said at the time, or say the thing I wish I'd said at the time, continuing the conversation with myself. Alternatively, I sometimes squint my eyes in a weird way as though I'm trying to pinch off my brain from fulling living out the memory.

Let's see, example moments:

  • Weeks ago, my wife's coworker expressed some questionable opinions about faith healing and whatnot. I said "Riiiiiight," in the most belittling, jerky way possible, and turned around to continue the conversation, only to see she'd walked out the door.

  • Getting a "Look, I'm not that into you" email from one (actually not-that-significant) love interest in college

  • Interesting variation: I had a really good friend and coworker, years ago, who I think grew to like and respect me less over the course of our 2nd year working together. There's plenty of distinct memories of my individual mistakes and decisions that led to this, but, I get the feeling any time I think about that PERSON, who never did anything wrong. I associate them with judging me for my multiple gaffes.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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