“Say What???”

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This morning when doing the New York Times crossword puzzle I came across a new word. As a 72 year old retired English professor, I rarely encounter a word I haven’t seen before. So I was jubilant. (Yes. During this lockdown it isn’t taking much to make me happy.) The word is “mondegreen,” apparently coined in 1954 and defined as misinterpreting a word or phrase, especially from a song lyric.

Finally. A chance to share one of my favorite “aha” moments from my marriage. My husband and I were at a concert of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon playing together. (Well not together as it turns out. They were taking turns. Sort of.) Anyway Dylan began singing “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.” I had never seen the title of this song, only heard it played. My husband turned excitedly to me saying “this is the only song that is about Mobile.” He was raised in Mobile, Alabama, so this made an impression on him. To my chagrin, I realized that for forty years I had been singing “I’m stuck inside a mobile with the Memphis blues again.” Sounded quite believable given Dylan’s frequently psychedelic verses.

My other mondegreen comes from a song I can’t recall. All I know is that I constantly sing “you’re my corn dog in the night.” I have to assume that the lyric is something quite different. At least I hope it is.

What lyrics have you been mishearing for years? Of course if no one has corrected you this question will make no sense!

44 thoughts on ““Say What???”

  1. I love that there’s a word for that! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the words wrong in a song, and only find out when I somehow see the lyrics in print. Of course, most of the cases have escaped my memory right now, except one, perhaps the most baffling. In high school I told my brother about a new song I liked, ‘the one about Canada.’ He looked puzzled, so I sang a few lines..”Can-a-da – you sure do shine.’ He looked at me incredulously and said slowly and with emphasis, ‘you mean DIAMOND GIRL?” Um, yes, I guess I did! 🙂 🙂

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  2. I’m hopeless at crosswords, and I had never heard of a word for misinterpreting pop lyrics. This popular British comedian is well known for making those misheard lyrics into part of his stage act. I hope you can play this clip in America. (And understand his Lancashire accent)

    Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. I love this story, with a twinge of jealously that you were at a Bob Dylan and Paul Simon concert. The list of misunderstood and misspoken lyrics from children is a very long list, and always a pleasure to hear.

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  4. I used to work the NY Times crossword puzzles — Monday and Tuesday with ink, Wednesday and Thursday with pencil, Friday with a hope and a prayer. We moved away, and I worked puzzles in the local paper until the rates went up.

    Have you tried dictionary.com? I get a new word every day and a quiz every seven days. I consider the quiz my home Alzheimer test.

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    1. No I don’t know about that and will check it out. It took me a long time to figure out that the Thursday puzzle always has a trick and that the Friday and Saturday puzzles are harder than the Sunday one.

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  5. I forgot to tell you my dad’s story. In Sunday School, the other children were singing “lighten the corner where you are”. He fervently believed the words were “fight in the corner where you are”.

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  6. Mondegreen—definitely a new one for me. Reading your blog made me think of all the number of times kids said the Pledge of Allegiance in school on autopilot, not knowing what they were saying. 😎http://www.kissthisguy.com/i-pledge-a-lesions-to-the-flag-of-the-un-misheard-5929.htm

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  7. I am fascinated by language. If you don’t already know the book, read ‘The Adventure of English’ by Melvyn Bragg – fascinating (I’m about to comment on it in my own blog later – I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book so far but I know it has chapters about ‘American English’ later on). Also, if you like Shakespeare, the Guardian newspaper has had a list of Shakespeare plays which are being streamed – starting tonight with the National Theatre (on their YouTube channel) putting on Twelfth Night. I don’t know what time that would be for you, but over here it’s 7pm. They’ve been putting on a play every Thursday evening during lockdown. I’m sure you have plenty of things like that over in the States as well though!

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  8. Oh goodness. I made a fool of myself around Benny and the Jets back in the 70s. There’s a line which i now know says ‘she’s got electric boots a mohair suit’ but to my oversexed adolescent ears i was sure he sang ‘she’s got electric boobs and mohair pubes’. When i revealed my surprise to my flat mate that the BBC hadn’t banned I was on the modern parlance, roasted

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