Confabulate – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s Word of the Day on, Confabulate, is an interesting word for our times. Basically, it means to talk casually, converse or chat. It originated in 1610’s, from confabulatus,  past participle of Latin confabulari  “to converse together,” from com-  “together” (see com- ) + fabulari “to talk, chat, “from fabula “a tale” (see fable ).

It has a second meaning though, coined in psychological circles in 1924, that has found its way into our current dialog. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive look:

Confabulation is a disturbance of memory, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Wikipedia goes on to explain, people who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from “subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications”, and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite contradictory evidence.

There are several theories related to confabulation but one that caught my attention is the theory that proposes that confabulations represent a way for memory-disabled people to maintain their self-identity. And there are a host of disorders associated with frontal lobe injury or disease that present with some of the signs and symptoms associated with confabulation:

Signs and Symptoms of Confabulation:

  1. Typically verbal statements but can also be non-verbal gestures or actions.
  2. Can include autobiographical and non-personal information, such as historical facts, fairy-tales, or other aspects of semantic memory.
  3. The account can be fantastic or coherent.
  4. Both the premise and the details of the account can be false.
  5. The account is usually drawn from the patient’s memory of actual experiences, including past and current thoughts.
  6. The patient is unaware of the accounts’ distortions or inappropriateness, and is not concerned when errors are pointed out.
  7. There is no hidden motivation behind the account.
  8. The patient’s personality structure may play a role in his/her readiness to confabulate

Of course, there is a distinction between true confabulation and outright lies; that distinction being that the one confabulating truly believes the fabricated story they are telling, sometimes with such conviction that those listening may find themselves wondering if it is not indeed true. This can be problematic if the suffering individual’s illness is left unchecked, (thinking out loud here, confabulating if you will) especially if the individual confabulating is in a position of power or authority. I’ll let that settle with you for a few seconds.

It may be just me, but I am deeply concerned about the state of mind of our current chief executive. He seems to confabulate in waves, with lucid calculated, manipulating speech interspersed. Vulnerable, gullible people who are easily manipulated seem blind to the difference, believing his confabulations over verifiable fact. Believing I say, but what is most disturbing is their veneration of his statements because, they say, “he says what I think”. This realization is the scariest thought of all.

A few haiku for you then. Thanks for joining me for this confabulation on a most interesting word.

people watched aghast
poor confabulating fool
his mind sundowning

the truest old friends
confabulate for hours
words in unison

there is no solace
in confabulated yarns
that never happened


16 responses to “Confabulate – Friday’s Word of the Day

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