11 April 2009

I'm Sorry, I'll Play That Again

So I rang the Kittybrewster this evening, all aflush with excitement.

'I've been dying to call you all day,' I declared, 'I learned a new word, and it's superb!'
Her delight was obvious, as is fitting for someone who so recently exhorted me to save the words*, and a broad grin was quite audible in her 'Oh yes?'
'It's "mondegreen",' I burst out, 'it means a misheard line in a song, like "Gladly, the Cross-eyed bear," or "there's a bathroom on the right". Apparently the word was accepted into the Merriam-Webster dictionary last year, and has been around since the fifties when someone misheard a line in a song about how someone killed Lord So-and-So and laid him on the green as a line that someone killed Lord So-and-So and Lady Mondegreen.'

She was suitably thrilled, and really, who can blame her?

Just for the record, it was 1954, and it was one Sylvia Wright who coined the term, after having misheard a line from the seventeenth century Scottish ballad 'The Bonnie Earl O' Murray', which should read:
'Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
And laid him on the green.'
Yes, somehow it seems more poetic if the poor Earl had shared his terrible fate with Lady Mondegreen, whoever she was, but alas, no.

I'm sure we've all got our favourite ones. Sister the eldest used always to wonder why Macy Gray would sing 'I wear goggles when you're not here.' A friend at home used to sing along to the Beatles with the words 'pay per bike rider'. Me? Well, as a child I used to hear songs in a muddied form, being played by the Brother in the room below my bedroom, so is it any wonder that I used to think the Pogues sang a song called 'Dirty Old Man', or that I always thought Kate Bush opened Peter Gabriel's 'Games without Frontiers' with the words 'she's so popular.'

Yes, I know it's jeux san frontieres. I only learned that a few months ago. All my life I've misheard that. The Brother's still disgusted with me. Ah well.

*I like 'slimikin', and keep meaning to use it when chatting to a fair damosel or two with whom I occasionally witter. Look it up.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Woundikins! Only a foppotee would pass up the chance to Save the Words!

(woundikins: a mild expression of surprise
foppotee: a fool, an ignorant person)