On May 20, my wife asked me out of the blue where Monte Carlo was. She knew but had somehow forgotten. When she asked me, I found that I had forgotten as well! All that came to mind was “somewhere near Morocco,” and so my brain, not getting that its nearness to Morocco was more phonetic than geographic in nature, started proposing other North African countries like Algeria and Tunisia, even though I knew perfectly well that Monte Carlo was in a tiny country in Europe. Finally, realizing that I was getting nowhere in my attempts to remember, I just had to look it up.
The very next morning I was reading Freud’s General Introduction to Psychoanalysis and came across this passage:
One day I noticed that I could not recall the name of the little country in the Riviera of which Monte Carlo is the capital. It is very annoying, but it is true. I steep myself in all my knowledge about this country . . . but to no avail. So I give up thinking, and in place of the lost name allow substitute names to suggest themselves. They come quickly: Monte Carlo itself, then Piedmont, Albania, Montevideo, Colico. Albania is the first to attract my attention; it is replaced by Montenegro, probably because of the contrast between black and white. Then I see that four of these substitutes contain the same syllable mon. I suddenly have the forgotten word, and cry aloud, “Monaco.”
Reading this just a day after my very similar experience of forgetfulness was quite a coincidence. Not only did Freud and I both forget the name of Monaco, but we both forgot it as the country of which Monte Carlo is the capital, and our brains both supplied us with phonetically similar names in the attempt to remember.