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AWADmail Issue 14

January 8, 2000

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

Thanks to everyone who wrote in response to mondegreen, the word for December 20, 1999. Here are a few selections from the responses.

From: Roger Mock (mockATcapital.net)

Thanks for today's word. It left me with a Monday-grin.

From: Uwe Gerken (uwe.gerkenATinformatik.uni-oldenburg.de)

For a very long time I've misinterpreted a song by Jannis Joplin: She sings: "Oh Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz" I always heard: "Oh Lord won't you buy me a mercy dispense"! The fact that the German pronunciation of "Mercedes Benz" is quite different from the English one certainly "helped"!

From: Cathy Julian (cjulianATnorthcoast.com)

I have to share a mondagreen I heard of during the Gulf War, when the U.S. was bombing Baghdad and it was in the newscasts every day -- an acquaintance overheard his young son explaining things to a little friend, about how the Good Dads have to go over and fight the Bad Dads.

It was funny but also rather wrenching.

From: Sally Lampe (sally.j.lampeATexgate.tek.com)

Just had to send this to you in case you hadn't read it. I spotted it in The Oregonian, Homes and Gardens of the Northwest section, December 16, 1999.

"Ground was broken for a public park in Greenwich, Conn. The park, which will open next summer, is dedicated to raising awareness of children with cystic fibrosis. The park will be called Sixty-Five Roses, a name derived from the way one 5-year old pronounced his disease."

From: Dennis Gittinger (laskana8ATaol.com)

"Mondegreen," huh? Cool. And timely in my case. I met a lady for dinner at Taipei Restaurant which she thought was for people with Type A personalities!

From: Bonnie I. Kramer (beekman01ATaol.com)

This morning you made me laugh out loud--quite a feat for a Monday morning, a Monday morning that sees me jobless. I am truly enjoying "A Word A Day", a gift a while ago from a man no longer in my life. I don't miss him at all, but I would certainly miss my daily word and the quotes that you send.

If you're ever in New York City, I'd love to meet you for a drink or a cup of coffee at what a friend's out-of-town niece called "The World of Astoria." I hope she wasn't disappointed to discover it was a mere hotel.

From: Sandy Hyslop (shyslopATed.state.nh.us)

Ah, yes. This week's topic is a good one and so appropriate to my morning! I was just reading an e-mail from a colleague here at the NH State Department of Education and wondering if the expression she used is correct. She refers to the use of technology by students as another potential barrier for low-income families, widening the gap between the "halves" and the "half-nots!" I always thought the expression should be the "haves" and the "have-nots". Would you be so kind as the clarify this for me?

    The ever-widening gap between haves and have-nots is certainly a growing concern not to mention others, such as:
    halves and half-notes (growing silence between musically gifted vs. not)
    haves and have-knots (growing distance between nautically gifted vs. not)
    haves and have-naught (growing divide [by zero] between mathematically gifted vs. not) -Anu

From: Annette Fine (afineATerols.com)

I must share my favorite "mondegreen" with you. I asked my seventh grade English class to write a paragraph on an exciting moment in their lives. One student wrote "I'll never forget the time my brother choked at dinner and my father gave him the Hemlock Remover."

From: C Nankervis (cmnankervisATearthlink.net)

"Poetry In Motion"
For years I thought the song was 'Oh, a Tree In Motion.'

From: Hunter Anderson (handersonATnamb.net)

I am glad to finally know what to call it! A favorite around our house is the Farmer John Cheese we put on our spaghetti.

From: Mark Vershbow (mvershbowATaol.com)

You probably are going to be flooded with examples of Mondegreens; here is one drop in the bucket.

In high school art class, I showed the teacher a cartoon in the New Yorker that I liked. She said, "That's surrealist." I spent many years looking for works by that well known artist, Mr. Surrelious.

From: Pete Hoyle (sphoy1ATmail.wm.edu)

It is so good to learn of the word "mondegreen." I can't resist sending you two that come from my children's youth:

(1) ami As in, "Mommy, will we go to your ami today?" (Following my wife's comment that we would soon arrive in Miami).

(2) have (pron. hayv) As in, "Daddy, was I have?" (Following, of course, my admonition that at the party, he should behave).

From: Richard C. Matheron (rmatheronATaol.com)

As a child going to Christian Science Sunday School, I always heard the Reader say, "We shall now read from 'Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures' by our bereared (revered) leader Mary Baker Eddy." I could never figure why the Reader should be drawing attention to the possible steatopygia of Mrs. Eddy.

From: Robert Greene (mhpertgATgw.omh.state.ny.us)

Today's entry gave me a terrific opportunity to laugh and reflect how a craze among recent TV fare has given us another mondegreen: Is that your final ant, sir?

From: Jonas Eklund (jonas.eklundATspray.se)

There is actually an entire website dedicated to mondegreens, some of them absolutely hilarious: www.kissthisguy.com

From: DL Hilton (hiltonATentelos.com)

Concerning mondegreens. I cheerily remember singing the Easter Song "Glady, the Cross-eyed Bear" and (is this a candidate for the California Cheese Board's theme song, or what?) "What a Friend We Have in Cheeses"

From: John Sheehe (john.sheeheATdisney.com)

My personal favorites: For all intense purposes - For all intents and purposes

    I've also heard "for all intensive purposes." -Anu

From: Alison Payne (a.payneATtoowoomba.qld.gov.au)

Just thought I'd share what I thought was a hilarious mondegreen. I received an email from a friend recently who had written "mister meaner" in place of "misdemeanour". Unfortunately I can't recall the context which made it riotous.

From: Pam Henager (phenagerATaol.com)

Our family's favorite mondegreen -- we were driving cross country and stopped for lunch in Mandan ND. When we asked at the visitor's center for a restaurant recommendation, we were given directions to what we heard as "The Coat of Arms".

All the way there, I wondered who on earth would open a restaurant in Mandan ND called "The Coat of Arms". When we reached the corner our directions led us to, we were disappointed not to find the restaurant we were seeking. However, there was another restaurant -- Dakota Farms!

From: Marie (maralunaATaol.com)

I was delighted to see mondegreen appear in AWAD. Pardon me if you already are aware of this, but I thought you would enjoy visiting Jon Carroll's Mondegreen site. Jon Carroll (jrcATsfgate.com) is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist who devotes two columns a year to Mondegreens. He has a website where all his Mondegreen columns since 1995 can be accessed, at: sfgate.com

From: Richard Harrington (richardhATdns.luminet.net)

Years ago when I worked for a music publisher our customer service department manager got this complaint - "Yesterday I called to order the piano score for Rhapsody In Blue and your service rep. told me you had no such publication. After I insisted on a catalog check the young lady told me - 'really sir, we do not have Rap City In Blue'". The Monday "Word For The Day" reminded me of this true story.

From: Laurel H. Stoddard (lhsotrATflash.net)

I was delighted to read about mondegreens this morning. I work for a court reporting company, which, as you may imagine, results in a great many opportunities for occurrences of such. In fact, thanks to one of our reporters, another phrase for mondegreens was coined about 15 years ago. The reporter, hearing a witness mispronounce entrepreneurial, wrote in her notes "intrepid oriole." Thus subsequent mishearings (especially funny ones) have been dubbed intrepid orioles by our intrepid employees.

From: Dave Andrew (daveoradATaol.com)

I'm glad to see Gavin Edwards quoted, because I have a mondegreen preserved for posterity in his 1997 book _When a Man Loves a Walnut_. It comes from The Beach Boys' "I Get Around":

WRONG: "The cab drivers know us and they leave us alone"
RIGHT: "The bad guys know us and they leave us alone"

    Are you sure, Dave, you haven't reversed right and wrong here? -Anu (-:

From: Elizabeth Hoar (elizabethx.hoarATintel.com)

Today's word-for-the-day is particularly thought provoking! I remember listening to an interview with a recording artist a few years ago (the name escapes me) who said that he never includes his lyrics in his CD notes because the listener's interpretation of what he hears is really more personally meaningful.

From: Arthur Searby (hobnobATnccoast.net)

Anu - Got a flood of mondegreens yet? I loved it. I've carried one around in my head for almost seventy years. As a child when we sang "America, the Beautiful" I would loudly proclaim "Every brom ding!" instead of "Let freedom ring" being old enough to understand neither. I still do it for a nostalgic lift of spirits. And then the roller coaster at Steeplechase Park in NY was called the "sinner grail way" instead of "scenic railway".

From: David Cox (rdavidATtcia.net)

So we have an eponym that is a Monty Green.

English teachers are usually aware of a classic, if they've been around long enough: euthanasia. I once got an oral presentation on Youth in Asia after my suggestion of the topic euthanasia.

[Also noted by Esther Hecht (estherATjpost.co.il).]

From: Sydney Keegan (skeeganATwaypt.com)

Are you taking contributions to your archive of mondegreens? Here's one that will appeal to all fans of Gilbert and Sullivan, and there are many out there! In the first act of THE MIKADO, Pish-Tush addresses a song, "Young man, despair," to the young hero, Nanki-Poo, telling him that he must give up his desire to wed Yum-Yum because she is now betrothed to her guardian, Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of Titipu. The second verse includes this line: "She'll toddle away, as all aver, with the Lord High Executioner."

Any number of Gilbert and Sullivan lovers have told me that, like me, they were puzzled for years by the reference to a mysterious character named Oliver who never appears in the story. When I was quite little, I was convinced that the song did indeed refer to someone named Oliver, and later decided that the line meant "As all of her," meaning with her head still attached to her shoulders. It was only when I was an adult and actually read that part of the score that I discovered "all aver."

From: Lloyd Walker (lloyd.walkerATsonoco.com)

What is the difference between a "mondegreen" and a "malapropism"?

    About three years. Malapropism was featured in AWAD in Aug 96 while mondegreen made its appearance in Dec 99. Seriously, in malapropism, the speaker pronounces a similar sounding word instead of the actual word (as in "an allegory on the banks of the Nile") while in mondegreen it is the listener who mis-hears the words (take any example from this compilation). So you could say that the difference between a malapropism and a mondegreen is the same as that between a mouth and an ear. -Anu

From: Elizabeth Hutchings (elizabeth.hutchingsATea.gov.au)

My favourite mondegreen was perpetrated by the children at my son's primary school, who rendered the first words of the Australian national anthem - "Australians all let us rejoice" - as "Australia's sunset ostriches".

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you CAN make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all." -Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) [Through the Looking Glass]

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