Monday, April 25, 2011

Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear

I love mondegreens.  True mondegreens are extremely rare and I treasure every one I find.  

For those of you who do not know what a mondegreen is, the term was coined by an author named Sylvia Wright, who as a child often heard an old Scottish ballad called "The Bonny Earl of Murray" which contained this stanza: " Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands/ Oh, where hae ye been?/ They hae slain the Earl of Murray/  And Lady Mondegreen."

Little Sylvia grieved for Lady Mondegreen,  Such a sad end.

Only later in life did Ms. Wright discover that the verse really went like this:   "Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands/ Oh, where hae ye been?/ They hae slain the Earl of Murray/ And laid him on the green."

This is what I mean by a true mondegreen.......innocent, natural mishearings or misunderstandings. Many of the ones you hear have  a contrived feel, as though someone had thought them up in an attempt to be clever.  But you never know...people hear things in different ways.  I bet everyone at some time has coined a mondegreen without knowing it.  Children do it all the time.

Some examples:  A woman returned home to find a note from her husband which read: "Your doctor's office called.  Your Pabst beer is normal."
On a program at a residence for the elderly: "The artists will be singing the timeless sounds of classic Broadway and the marvelous melodies of Tim Panally."
"Our Father who art in Heaven, How did you know my name?"
 "Is there a saying that goes, 'Hope springs a turtle?' "

This one is problematic and may well have been made up by somebody, but it is cute and funny and is one of my favorites:
The small son of a minister was conducting a graveside service for his pet robin or goldfish or whatever and his little friends were gathered around while he intoned the words he had so often heard from his father:  "...... in the name of the Fatherrrrr, the Sonnnn....and into the hole he goes!"

Hope you will all be watching out for mondegreens.  They are worth a smile on the darkest day.

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