It’s a conversation stopper most every time. Arriving without warning it instantly draws everyone in whether they choose to or not. Once involved it’s hard to withdraw, let alone surrender. It all begins when whoever is speaking arrives at a “what’s-its-name” moment when he can’t recall the name, say, of a person, place, event, etc.; one presumably essential to his story. Until he can summon up that name, he will not continue, nor allow anyone to change the subject. He alone, at first, assumes responsibility for the answer which sets him rummaging through all manner of mental associations and memory traces. But his efforts lead nowhere amidst mounting discomfort. That’s when others realize they’d better get involved if the conversation is to continue.
Now, with suggestions flowing in, everyone looks to him to see if they’ve solved the puzzle. He offers clues and possible linkages, but still the much sought-after name eludes them. Some, clearly frustrated by this guessing game, withdraw from the hunt. Others keep at it, unwilling to throw in the towel, viewing it now as a contest they’ve determined to win.
So, how do such conversational dead ends end? The best outcome is, when to everyone’s great relief, someone stumbles upon the correct name. This concludes the quest and confirms the advantages of collective effort. If all efforts fail, however, the individual who originally hijacked the conversation is visibly deflated. His story will go unfinished.
So the lesson here is: Beware of starting a story until you have your names in place.