The point is that it is kind of an interesting mental state to be in. We've all been there, where you are searching for the right word or phrase, you know that you know the answer, but you can't quite remember it. It's on the "tip of your tongue", but you can't quite spit it out.
Often times when you are in this state, you can describe quite a lot about the thing which you are trying to remember. You might remember that it is a short word, for example, or that the item you are trying to remember is often green, you can maybe even picture where in the textbook you read the information...strange triggers like that, even when you cannot bring the actual information to mind.
The teacher was trying to demonstrate this to us, by reading questions meant to provoke the "tip of the tongue" state. When somebody in the classroom found themselves almost remembering the answer, they would try to describe what they were thinking, what they remembered about what they were trying to remember. It was an interesting class exercise, if only partially successful.
Well I experienced this in a very strange way last week. I was talking to K & D about the book I was reading. I told them that I'd picked up a couple of novels from my local public library, but I couldn't remember just then what they were. "One is by that guy, you know, the one who wrote About A Boy and High Fidelity?"
"Nick Hornby," they supplied.
"Oh yes, that's right, Hornby. Well it's his other book. Not those two, a different one." They informed me that he's written more than three books, but neither of them could remember any additional titles. "Well there were only those three in the library. I got the third one."
D asked, "Oh, is it about a woman? Because I think I heard part of that on tape awhile back. If so, it's a really sad book."
But even though I'd read the first few pages before I'd gone to sleep the night before, I couldn't remember anything about it. It had completely slipped my mind.
The weird thing was though, I had a strong feeling that the title had a double-o in it somewhere. Or at least some double-letter. I kept thinking maybe it the word "cool", in it, or "good", or maybe "loop"? But that was such a vague and unlikely-sounding memory, I didn't even bother to voice it in the conversation. Even so, it continued to nag me. What was the title, and did it have a double-o in it?
When I got home that night, I was pleasently surprised to see that the book is titled How To Be Good. I was right, it did have the word "good" in it! The "tip of the tongue" phenomenon held true.
Now that I look at the cover art, I can even guess why it was the two o's that lingered in my memory, even while the rest of the title was lost somewhere on the tip of my tongue.
(And yes, it is the one about the woman, and it is pretty sad so far. But very captivating even so.)