Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Looking for Lady Mondegreen.

RHYS BOWEN: Yesterday we talked about poetry being spoken out loud. I used to love reciting and listening but I have to confess that as a child I used to misunderstand the lyrics from time to time, especially when the words were unfamiliar to me. "While shepherds washed their socks by night," was a common one.
But there was one hymn at church that said "sweet the countless tongues united to entrance the prophet's ear."
I didn't know the word entrance. I took that word to mean entrance as in doorway. So it conjured up a horrible picture for me... all those tongues trying to force their way into an ear.  It was the stuff of horror movies.

This phenomenon of mishearing or misinterpreting lines of poetry is known as "Mondegreens."
It comes from a misunderstood poem, much recited as:  They have killed the Earl of Moray, and Lady Mondegreen.
The line should read "and laid him on the green."

My husband's brother , who was educated by Benedictines, always thought that words of the Hail Mary were "blessed art thou monks swimming," rather than "blessed art thou amongst women."

Other favorites are "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear" instead of "Gladly the cross I'd bear."
And Olive, the other reindeer, instead of "all of the other reindeer."

So I'm curious to know if anyone else has had some amusing or embarrassing misunderstandings.Fess up, Reds.

HALLIE EPHRON: I had no idea that's what they're called. Like so many other kids, for years I pledged allegiance to the republic for Richard Stans. And there was elemeno -- the letter between K and P. And it took me a long time to realize that The B-52s were urging me to Roam if you want to. I thought it was Rome ipsewannoo, like maybe a Latin expression. No clue until I saw the lyric printed out. My granddaughter is besotted with Mary Poppins an sings Supercalifragilistic: "If you say it loud enough you'll always sound capocious" while marching around the house with an open pink umbrella.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, yes, Mondegreens. Love them.  Of course, the Jimi Hendrix song: Excuse me while I kiss this guy. Instead of kiss the sky.
And in God Bless America: Through the night with a light from a bulb.
(I'm sorry, I laugh every time.)
Londonderry Air? I ALWAYS thought was London Derriere.
My grandson Eli used to cry out: "Cariou! Cariou!" And we could never figure it out. Finally we realized he was saying: Carry you. As in: Want me to carry you?

RHYS: Hank, when I sang with an opera chorus, many moons ago, a flaboyantly gay fellow singer misinterpreted the song "She's a must to avoid" as "She's a muscular boy!"

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: One of my kids, also in Catholic school, thought the prayer said, "Hail, Mary, full of grapes." I certainly Mondegreen on many popular songs today -I'm not sure if my hearing is that bad, or if singers' enunciation is poor. Maybe both?  When I was younger I never got the lyrics to "Secret Agent Man" right. I thought the singer was saying "secret Asian man." Also, the song "Evil woman" STILL sounds like "Medieval Woman" to me.

My late father-in-law consistently referred to Alzheimer's as Old Timers, although that may be a malapropism rather than a Mondegreen.

Oh, and for Christmas songs? For years, I thought the verse in "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" was "Later on, we'll perspire/As we sit by the fire." To be fair, it seems more logical than conspiring by the fire.

LUCY BURDETTE: Our son used to call people "papaswinbags" instead of pompous windbags. We can't remember the context! Could it possibly have been in HOME ALONE?

DEBORAH CROMBIE; DEBORAH CROMBIE: I had no idea they were called that, either! How funny. I never get song lyrics right, either, and the hub always laughs at me. I did finally learn that the line from The Weight was "Take a load off Annie," not "Take a load of fanny..."

RHYS: Anyone have a favorite Mondegreen to share?


  1. While they always make me laugh, I'm not always terribly good at remembering them . . . "Sleep in heavenly peas" and "Doughnuts make my brown eyes blue" come to mind, though.

  2. So funny! In one of Michael Jackson's songs I always understood " she's a vegetable" and it is really " She's the best of all". There was another song from a Canadian rapper in the early 90's called "informer" I swear he was saying A farmer" !!!! So hysterical.

  3. Hysterical. Never knew there was a name for this! Jimmy Buffett's "Ansel for me." Spent years wondering who Ansel was until I figured out it was "and salt for your meat."

  4. Laughing out loud before seven in the morning - love it! In Silent Night: "Round John Virgin, Mother and Child..." Creedence Clearwater's "There's a Bathroom on the Right," and the Beatles' "The Girl with Colitis Goes By." But Debs - you mean it ISN"T "Take a load off Fannie?" OMG...

    Some of these misinterpretations are what linguists call eggcorns. It's a wrong word but it kind of fits. "After all is set and done," "holiday sauce," "a posable thumb," and so many more. Including Old Timer's disease!

    All archived here at the Eggcorn Database: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/ (Fair warning, you can get lost in this delightful site.)

  5. Oh, and "eggcorn" itself is, of course, an eggcorn, as in, "The eggcorn doesn't fall far from the tree" - someone's misinterpretation of acorn as being the baby oak. Which it is.

  6. Edith beat me to "There's a bathroom on the right" (which I'm pretty sure John Fogerty does sing some times).

    For the longest time I thought The Young Rascals were singing "You and me and Leslie groovin' on a Sunday afternoon"; it's actually "you and me endlessly groovin' on a Sunday afternoon". I knew the lyrics I heard couldn't be right as there weren't (m)any songs about threesomes in the 60s.

  7. I think it's in one of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books ... "Jose can you see, by the dawn's early light ..."

  8. Opps, missed a part of that. I think it was "dawnzerly light." Loved those books when my daughter was young.

  9. For me it's "blood on the cow" for "blood on the plow" only I can never remember the song title. Shameless self promotion here: in the next Liss MacCrimmon mystery (Kilt at the Highland Games, July pub date) I use a Mondegreen as a major clue.


  10. Yep, Edith beat me to "There's a bathroom on the right" too. I saw a special with John Fogerty and Keith Urban years ago where they were discussing lyrics. Even Fogerty said when he saw them written down he thought, "Oh, is that what they're supposed to be?"

  11. I love this stuff! There seem to be a lot of us with Mondegreens from church. I always thought it was "...lead a snot into temptation" in the Hail Mary - helped, no doubt, by having many older wiseacre teen siblings who used the word.

    My daughter set my husband and I to laughing when we heard her loudly singing along with the Gilligan's Island theme: "... with Gilligan, the Skipper Dude..."

    She also used to sing a Garth Brooks song called "Standing Outside the Fire" as "Standing Outside the Barn" (which actually makes a lot more sense).

  12. Roaring here. Glad to know I'm not alone.

    One of my daughters is famous for this kind of thing. When she was three (forgive me, Hallie, for repeating this), she was making the case for seeing a movie she'd seen advertised on TV. Her final, most persuasive argument: "It's in Feodors everywhere!"

    The same daughter was actually in her teens when her most entertaining misunderstanding happened. We were in northern Michigan on vacation, and everyone was trying to make plans for dinner at a nearby town, Elk Rapids. DD#2 demanded to know why it was called El Crapids!

    Naturally, we all still call it that.

  13. I've got a couple that are a little different and stem from being too much of a reader. As a child, my mother thought the phrase she'd read in Aladdin was pronounced "Open see same." I was in high school before I realized the name I'd heard for the Hitler party, the Knotses, was the same as the word I'd read, the "Nazeyes." Seriously.

  14. I just remembered another Christmas song I Mondegreen: the kitschy 50s fave "Mele Kalikimaka." For years, I sang it as "Mele Kalikimaka is the wise way, to say Merry Christmas to you." Well, it may be the wise way for a holiday greeting, but it turns out the song actually reads Hawai'i's way to say Merry Christmas to you. I didn't figure this out until I was over 40 and had already visited Oahu several times.

  15. Oh my gosh Julia, I did't know it wasn't "a wise way" until I just read your comment!

    I sing in my church choir, and our director has a favorite, though I guess it is technically not a Mondegreen. In the song Lift High The Cross they used to lay it out line by line, so the phrase was split like this:

    Each newborn servant of the Crucified
    Bears on his brow the seal of Him who died.

    But in a later hymnal the breaks line up differently and they didn't bother to change the capitalization, leading to part of it reading "...of the Crucified Bears." She swears we should form a softball team by the name "The Crucified Bears."

  16. These are too funny. I didn't know it wasn't "a wise way" either!

    There was a Paul Revere and the Raiders song back in the late 60s or early 70s called "Arizona." My mother thought it was "Harry's Doughnuts." Every time it plays on the oldies station it makes me think of my mom.

  17. I would join a softball team named "The Crucified Bears."

  18. Every Friday night my husband recites "A Woman of Valor" from the Book of Psalms before dinner. The opening line is "A woman of valor, who can find?" Our 9-year-old daughter thought he was saying, "A woman of valor he confined" and couldn't understand why I would stand for him reading that.

  19. When my daughter was little, she used to say, "Remember yestermorrow?"

  20. The Skipper Dude!! AHHH...hilarious.

    And even Cadillac had to admit there was a problem with their ads to Lease A (Cadillac) Catera.

    They said Lease a Catera so much that finally, one of their new ads had a voice over at the end saying: "Who's Lisa Catera?"

  21. And In Feodors everywhere. That is ADORABLE.

  22. Also didn't know the word Mondegreen. I learn something new here every day.

    I grew up in an area with a lot of coal mining, so lots of coal miners. As a child I didn’t understand when adults talked about "minors” who couldn’t drink beer, or get married, or drive a car.

  23. These are all terribly funny! One of my sons thought Bob Dylan wrote a song about "Knock,Knock, Knocking on HEATHER's Door", but my mother was completely terrible with lyrics.
    Among her worst were what she commented was the longest commercial she ever heard.It was, she thought, for Canada Dry, but it was The Buckinghams singing "Kind of a Drag". And she was completely scandalized by the Beach Boys singing about their "Little, Loose Kook".[Little Deuce Coupe, of course.]

  24. Okay, I KNOW that line from The Boxer is
    "...I got no offers, just a come-on from the whores on Second Avenue." But still I can't help hearing it as "...a come-on from the horse on Second Avenue." It becomes especially interesting when he took some comfort there.

    And back to the hymns, who confesses to singing, "Let angels prostate fall..."

  25. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Steaks of America.

  26. "Mondegreen" is a new word for me. I remember the discussions when I was young about whether the Beatles were singing, "And when you touch me I get happy inside, it's such a feeling I CAN'T HIDE -- or I GET HIGH . . .

    About as shocking a discussion as we had in the Catholic dorms.

  27. Julia, thanks for my something learned today, I always thought it was "the right way," much better as "Hawai'i's way to say Merry Christmas." Clarity is often hard to achieve . . . and yes I did mispronounce ricochet until my mom corrected me, and misspelled rapport in a referral letter for one of our substitute teachers (but it turns out my bigger mistake was in writing the letter).

  28. Of course I never had a Mondegreen (or have conveniently erased from memory) but I remember 2 friends in high school who liked to sing along to the radio. Can't remember the song, but instead of "that's what the good book says" she sang "that's what the cookbook says." Another friend loved Brenda Lee and "all alone am I, ebbesential goodbye."

  29. Sorry, catching up on posts.
    A million years ago, I directed a play and a group of us stayed up into the wee hours painting the floor to look like wood, a really long and tedious process. Music was playing and we got a little loopy:
    "I'll never be your pizza burnin'..." by the Rolling Stones is actually "I'll never be your beast of burden." Who knew?