Whoops…I knew what I meant, but I sure didn’t say it well. Yesterday, I said, “I’m taking a break for a few weeks in order to finish some things.” What I meant was, “I’m not going to start anymore projects or e-courses for a few weeks in order to finish some things.”
Although not the same thing, this got me thinking about when you hear something wrong, like the words to a song. There is actually a name for that. It’s called a mondegreen…the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning.
American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” in her essay, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954. In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the last line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray”. She wrote:
- When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:
- Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
- Oh, where hae ye been?
- They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
- And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual fourth line is, “And laid him on the green”. Wright explained the need for a new term:
- The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.
This information about mondegreens came from Wikipedia.
Do you have any mondegreens? Here are some funny ones.
Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
Actual Lyric: Abra Abra Cadabra…I wanna reach out and grab ya.
Mistaken Lyric: Abra Abra Cadabra…I wanna freak out and stab ya.
Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away
Actual Lyric: Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you.
Mistaken Lyric: Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you.
Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons – Let’s Hang On
Actual Lyric: Got a lot of love between us.
Mistaken Lyric: Got a lot of lucky peanuts.
Bon Jovi – Living On A Prayer
Actual Lyric: It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
Mistaken Lyric: ‘It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.
The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Actual Lyric: Don’t stand so close to me.
Mistaken Lyric: Ghost man so close to me.
Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now
Actual Lyric: I can see clearly now the rain has gone.
Mistaken Lyric: I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone.
The Beatles – All My Loving
Actual Lyric: And I’ll send all loving to you.
Mistaken Lyric: And I’ll send all my luggage to you.
Fanny Crosby – Keep Thou My Way
Actual Lyric: Gladly the cross I’ll bear.
Mistaken Lyric: Gladly the cross-eyed bear.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Takin’ Care Of Business
Actual Lyric: Takin’ care of business.
Mistaken Lyric: Baking carrot biscuits.
My mondegreen…when we learned the National Anthem, the first line is, “Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light.” I thought the first line was, “Oh, say, can you see, by the dawnzerly light.” I thought “dawnzerly” was an archaic adverb! I was quite a bit older before I figured out what the real words were. I probably have others, but I still think they’re the words to the song.
So, I’m still posting and baking carrot biscuits.
There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.
William P. Merrill