While we know that anomia is a term covering word-finding difficulties, we’d like to introduce a novel term: ‘phantom anomia’. We hope to go into more detail about this phenomenon later (hopefully including a published account), but we’ll briefly describe it here.
Whereas real tip-of-the-tongue phenomena can be resolved through either spontaneous recall of the word in question, or through consulting dictionaries or encyclopedias, with phantom anomia it turns out that the word on the tip of the subject’s tongue does not in fact exist. In other words the subject is convinced that she or he has faulty recall of a word, but in fact they do not as there is no such word. Clearly this can only be proved if the word being searched for is constrained semantically such that it can be proved it does not exist (perhaps a proper noun, a brand name or similar).
We hope to report in due course on a case of recurrent phantom anomia triggered by synesthesia (in this case colour – letter synesthesia). In the meantime, we do claim first usage of the term ‘phantom anomia’!