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7853.  Wed Jul 14, 2004 2:06 pm Reply with quote

These are creative mishearings of well-known words, usually of songs but not always.

The name comes from the creative mishearing of the words to 'The Earl of Moray', transforming it from 'They have slain the Earl of Moray, and laid him on the green' to 'They have slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen'.

This thought was prompted by a recent discussion on a Guardian thread, where three people revealed three different mondegreen versions of 'Lord of the Dance' experienced by themselves as children as 'I am the Lord of the Dance settee', 'I am the Lord of the Dancing Tea' and 'I am the Lord of the Downstairs tea.'

I remember Jasper Carrott doing one about Queen's little excursion into opera, with the line (as he heard it) about 'Beelzebub's got a devil for a sideboard'.

Others can be found here, but I wondered if we had any of our own to contribute?

7854.  Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:27 pm Reply with quote


Oh, yes. My partner, bless her soul, is very prone to this. I can't remember them all, but one of her famous ones was Juliette Pinochet for Juliette Binoche.

They got so comical that I began making a list, but I can't find it yet.

The other ones that spring to mind are the Dylan song 'Knocking on Heaven's Door' which they used to sing as 'Knocking on Kevin's door' - which is actually hilarious - and 'The Shriek of Agony' for 'The Sheik of Araby'.

BTW, do you remember that Radio 4 programme where the team were given a phrase or sentence, and had to explain its origin? Of course, the stories were silly, and the original sentence was transformed into a funny sound-alike.

I think it had Dennis Norden and Frank Muir as the two regular team-leaders, but I can't remember the name of the programme.

7855.  Thu Jul 15, 2004 2:32 pm Reply with quote

There's also the visual mondegreen. I spent several years half-way through the last decade musing on how many people these days had small boats which they could transport on their car roofs. It was only relatively recently that I discovered there had been a revolution in roof rack design.

7857.  Fri Jul 16, 2004 3:03 am Reply with quote

Does the literary mondegreen count? I taught some wicked kids once who complained to a store manager that they had watched the step, as his notice warned them to, for ten minutes, and it hadn't done anything...

Old Bailey
7858.  Fri Jul 16, 2004 3:28 am Reply with quote

This is the bit where Alan Davies smugly says 'Gringo' whereupon alarms sound and the 3ft word flashes on the screen behind.

Apparently not proven, but here is the jist of it:

GRINGO - The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988) says that the "...legend that the Spanish American term 'gringo' - a pejorative label for an American - came from 'Green Grow the Lilacs' is a good story..." American soldiers was supposed to have "...sang this song repeatedly" during the Mexican war and the "natives" heard it as "green-grow," thus "gringo."

There are others unsubstantiated versions here:

7859.  Fri Jul 16, 2004 5:52 am Reply with quote

The Toyota Starrion is another interesting yet doubtful story. Apparently the UK factory were told the name of the car by a Japanese exec over the phone and set to work making the badges. When it came to light that the name was actually 'Stallion' and they had misheard due to the Japanese confusion with R and L it was too late since the cars were already badged up and off the production line.

7864.  Fri Jul 16, 2004 6:00 pm Reply with quote

Although the first recorded use of "gringo" in English dates from 1849 (when John Woodhouse Audubon, the son of the famous nature artist, wrote that "We were hooted and shouted at as we passed through, and called 'Gringoes'"), the word was known in Spanish well before the Mexican-American War. According to Rawson, the Diccionario Castellano of 1787 noted that in Malaga "foreigners who have a certain type of accent which keeps them from speaking Spanish easily and naturally" were referred to as gringos, and the same term was used in Madrid, particularly for the Irish.
The true origin of gringo is most likely that it came from griego, the Spanish word for "Greek." In Spanish, as in English, something difficult or impossible to understand is referred to as being Greek: We say "It's Greek to me," just as in Spanish an incomprehensible person is said to hablar en griego (i.e., "speak in Greek"). The English version of the proverb shows up in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1599), when Casca, one of the conspirators against Caesar, proclaims:
Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the face again; but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but for mine own part, it was Greek to me.
The same phrase was also used (at about the same time) by another Elizabethan playwright, Thomas Dekker, but its origins are much older: it comes from the Medieval Latin proverb Graecum est; non potest legi (i.e., "It is Greek; it cannot be read").
It is certainly possible (and even likely) that the Mexican-American War precipitated the introduction of the Spanish word gringo into the English language, but the word itself antedates that conflict by at least sixty years and had nothing to do with singing soldiers, American or otherwise.

Stories such as this one should always be taken with a grain of salt, because they depend upon the premise of a multi-national, multi-million-dollar company's making its marketing decisions in a vacuum (nobody in all of Mitsubishi noticed the error or thought to question the name), and, having caught their mistake, deciding that the model name of their first entry into the lucrative American market wasn't important enough to merit correction.

(which seems to be the sensible reaction to me, although the story can't be definitively rebutted, it seems)

cf discussion elsewhere on the name "Silver Mist", supposedly used for a Rolls Royce post 6799

7868.  Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:01 am Reply with quote

I always thought that REM's "Call me when you try to wake her" was actually "Calling Cheryl Baker".

Which I actually prefer ...

7870.  Sat Jul 17, 2004 5:06 am Reply with quote

There's also the classic little boy's version of the hymn, 'Gladly, my cross-eyed bear.'

7879.  Sat Jul 17, 2004 6:16 am Reply with quote

Listening to the radio this morning, I was reminded of a mondegreen one of my kids came up with as a small child if Tom Jones' The Green Green Grass of Home came on the radio then:

Down the road I walk and there runs Mary
Hair of gold and lips so hairy

7934.  Mon Jul 26, 2004 4:32 pm Reply with quote

My partner came up with another one the other day. She said 'Ah well, lepers never change their spots'.

We were out walking by a river, and she said something like 'Estuaries always smell so clean', and I said 'How come?' because I thought she'd said 'Ashtrays'. Silly but true!

(I liked the hairy lips one!)

7935.  Mon Jul 26, 2004 4:41 pm Reply with quote

At my junior boarding school, we used to have an evening service on Sunday's in the small school chapel. It wasn't compulsory, but I went now and again because they sung lovely hymns like 'The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended'.

Our headmaster was called Barry Still. As part of the service, he read out the first few verses of the fourth psalm. The fourth verse goes 'Commune in your own chamber, and be still'.

I know lots of them used to turn up just to hear him say 'be still', usually to the occasional stifled giggle, but he never turned a hair.

7941.  Tue Jul 27, 2004 12:42 pm Reply with quote

I used to love 'The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended'. We only ever had it on the last day of term, because on that day we always had an assembly at the end of the day as well as the beginning.

7942.  Tue Jul 27, 2004 3:45 pm Reply with quote

There was another one today. At some point, I threw up my hands in mock desperation and said 'I've had enough!'

Someone turned round and asked 'Who with?' When I looked bewildered, she said 'Oh, I thought you said you'd fallen in love'.

7944.  Tue Jul 27, 2004 11:13 pm Reply with quote

I was at Speakers' Corner once many years ago, and the speaker was talking about the sinfulness of Ancient Rome. "They spent the whole day in orgies and lustful living," he said. "No, they didn't," said another. "How do you know?" asked the speaker. "Because I used to live there," said the other. "You used to live in Ancient Rome?" said the speaker. "Oh, sorry," said the other. "I thought you said the Edgware Road."


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