Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Love a Good Mondegreen....Don't You?

I am notorious for mishearing lyrics to songs. One of my all time bombs and one I did in concert once is “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. His line is: “Watching the ships roll in….and the first time I heard the song, I heard it wrong…and substituted the sh** word for ships. Shame on me. It was at that time that I realized how many times I do this…and I am not alone. I began researching it and discovered that it actually has a name….misheard lyrics are called mondegreens. A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony in a way that gives it a new meaning.[ American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term 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 final line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad “The Bonny Earl O’Moray." The lines she wrote were:

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 in reality "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 sometimes they are better than the original," and more often than not…funnier. Here are a couple I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. In fact I have sung them the wrong way so many times that I can’t remember the right way.
"There's a bathroom on the right "(the line at the end of each verse of "Bad Moon Rising" by one of my favorite old school groups, Creedence Clearwater Revival: "There's a bad moon on the rise")
And nobody can forget Woodstock when Jimi Hendrix belted out “'Scuse me while I kiss this guy (from a lyric in the song "Purple Haze") was actually "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky".
My son(who is tone deaf) actually gave me one when he was about 5 when we were singing a hymn at church. I looked at that sweet little angel belting out his rendition of “In the Garden…” and then paid attention to his words when I noticed he was saying, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me.” I asked him after church if he knew what God’s name was….and yep…you got it. Our of the mouth of babes came, “Andy.” I thought for a bit and decided to let it ride…it was not important…if he said, “Andy” or “and He.” His little heart was all that mattered.  As an English teacher, writer, singer, songwriter I have always loved playing with words and mondegreens give me great pleasure that is for sure. Can you think of some mondegreens you have used before? If you have one or two be sure to share them in the comments section. I would love to know there are others out there who hear things differently than I do. Have a Blessed Sunday.

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