Jamais vu

A friend once mentioned that some words begin to look strange when they are uttered in repetition. I too, have experienced that phenomenon not through utterance alone but also through contemplation. For instance, I hear a word and it echoes in my head, repeatedly, until it loses all vestiges of meaning. Recently, I learned the term for such phenomenon is jamais vu.

According to Wikipedia, a word has three characteristics: it has a form or a shape, which is a composite of sounds or characters (when written); it has a function, which is how the word operates in a meaningful sentence (i.e. as a noun); and it has a meaning, which is the concept the word represents.

When one repeats a word continuously, one is merely repeating its form. Initially, one is aware of the word’s function and meaning but without a sentence, the word loses its function. Without a sentence, there is also no context, and thus, the word loses its meaning.

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In psychology, jamais vu is said to be the opposite of déjà vu. While déjà vu is the perception that a present event has already occurred in the past, jamais vu is the perception that a past event is happening for the first time. A common experience would be someone not recognizing a place or a person that is already known.

Jamais vu literally means “never seen” in French while déjà vu means “already seen”. A related term, presque vu, the “it’s -at-the-tip-of-my-tongue” phenomenon, translates as “almost seen”.

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4 comments

  1. Boots · July 10, 2009

    so i learned something new today. thank you.

    i love your work

  2. Christy Douglass · July 28, 2009

    I have expierienced Jamais Vu as a teenager. I was sitting in my parent’s living room and looked outside and i didn’t recognize it. It was like I was looking at for the first time. I had lived there for several years. I didn’t understand what was going on! I just walked onto the patio and into the back yard, just staring around. It was like the whole house and yard had been picked up and set down into a different place! I didn’t find about jamais vu until several years later. It just blew me away. It only lasted for a few minutes but it kinda scared me at the same time.

  3. absolute0 · July 29, 2009

    Wow. I’ve never experienced jamais vu like that. Your experience was kinda creepy.

  4. Pingback: Here’s to twelve years of blogging | 遠くへ

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