Say What?

Reading yesterday’s New York Times magazine yesterday, I learned something,  While that’s not unusual, this time it was downright revelatory.  I learned about “mondegreens.”  And then I did my research.

Mondegreens are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally used for misheard song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech.   [via]

“Misheard song lyrics.”  Heh.  I’ve been chuckling about this for decades, especially when I fuck it up.  I remember years of trying to figure out songs to play, five of us in the room, picking up the needle off the record player and putting it down again, ears pointed, eyes scrunched, trying to simultaneously hear the right chord and get the right lyrics.  No, kids, Guitar Hero wasn’t around in 1968.

I never knew there was a name for these.  “Mondegreens” dates back to 1954!

The term mondegreen was originally coined by author Sylvia Wright, and has come to be quite widely used. As a child, Wright heard the lyrics of The Bonny Earl of Murray (a Scottish ballad) as:

Ye highlands and ye lowlands

Oh where hae you been?

Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray

And Lady Mondegreen

It eventually transpired that Lady Mondegreen existed only in the mind of Sylvia Wright, for the actual lyrics said that they “slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green.” And to this day Lady Mondegreen’s name has been used to describe all mishearings of this type!

Maybe the most famous is CCR’s, “There’s a bathroom on the right.”  Also: “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  That’s not what Hendrix sang.  And the Beatles didn’t really sing, “the girl with colitis walks by.”

My very good friend Rag once asked me why Huey Lewis “wanted a new truck.”  “Drug,” I explained.  “Roll one.”  Oh the memories.

Please: tell me you favorites.  This could be fun.

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4 Responses to Say What?

  1. rbhexem says:

    ya, good change of pace. Your last post almost started a war.

  2. The MassPube says:

    You’ll get lots of comments on this one. My favorite is an old friend who thought “Guantanemara” was “once in a meadow””. The origin of Mondegreen is great

  3. Kim Chee says:

    Haha! I never knew there was a word for this!

    I had friend who sang, “Naked carrot biscuits” instead of “Taking care of business.” OMG did we laugh at her for years when that silly song came on.

  4. 60s Radical says:

    One of my favorite Beatles lyrics was, ♪ “She’s got a checkered giraffe…” ♫
    Hey, it was the 1960s. Nothing sounded too bizarre.
    I had a Strawberry Alarm Clock and an Electric Prune… I think they might still be in a box in the attic…

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