Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Misheard Lyrics

This post is about misheard song lyrics also called mondegreen.
Mondegreen is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘A misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing, esp. of the lyrics to a song.’
On Wednesday, June 9, 2010 I also made a post about it:

It most commonly is applied to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen", published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954. "Mondegreen" was included in the 2000 edition of the Random House Webster's College Dictionary. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary added the word in 2008. The phenomenon is not limited to English, with examples cited by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the Hebrew song Háva Nagíla ("Let's Be Happy"), and in Bollywood movies.

A closely related category is soramimi—songs that produce unintended meanings when homophonically translated to another language.

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn. If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, that person has committed a mumpsimus.

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 Bonnie 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,
Sylvia Wright
     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.

Her essay had already described the bonny Earl holding the beautiful Lady Mondegreen's hand, both bleeding profusely but faithful unto the death. She disputed:

I know, but I won't give in to it. Leaving him to die all alone without even anyone to hold his hand --

Other examples Wright suggested are:
  •  Surely Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life ("Surely goodness and mercy…" from Psalm 23)
  •  The wild, strange battle cry "Haffely, Gaffely, Gaffely, Gonward." ("Half a league, half a league, / Half a league onward," from "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
Examples in Songs
The top three mondegreens submitted regularly to mondegreen expert Jon Carroll are:
  1.  "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear (from the line in the hymn "Keep Thou My Way" by Fanny Crosby and Theodore E. Perkins, "Kept by Thy tender care, gladly the cross I'll bear") Carroll and many others quote it as "Gladly the cross I'd bear."
  2. There's a bathroom on the right (the line at the end of each verse of "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival: "There's a bad moon on the rise")
  3. 'Scuse me while I kiss this guy (from a lyric in the song "Purple Haze," by The Jimi Hendrix Experience: "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky").
Both Creedence's John Fogerty and Hendrix eventually acknowledged these mishearings by deliberately singing the "mondegreen" versions of their songs in concert.

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