Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

August 19

Mondegreens:
Sylvia Wright & The Ants are My Friends

If you haven't heard of mondegreens, you are in for a treat. A mondegreen is a mis-heard lyric, almost always funny and often gut-wrenchingly hysterical.

"The word 'mondegreen' was coined by Sylvia Wright, who wrote a column about them in the fifties, when she recounted hearing a Scottish folk song, 'The Bonny Earl Of Morray.' She heard the lyric, 'Oh, they have slain the Earl o' Morray and laid him on the green' as 'Oh, they have slain the Earl o' Morray and Lady Mondegreen.' (I think this came from Jessica Ross.)

Jessica Ross was the author of a site called"The Ants are My Friends" where she used to list mondegreens followed by the correct line and the song. She had a million of them. The demise of this site is sad indeed. It was as reliable a source of laughing-until-tears-rolled-down-my-face as "The Utah Baby Namer" still is.

he is tramping out the vintage where the great giraffes are stored
he is tramping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Christ the royal master, leans against the phone
Christ the royal master leads against the foe
Onward Christian Soldiers

Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me
And He walks with me, and He talks with me
In the Garden

From Beatles songs:

It's such a feeling that my love, I get hives, I get hives, I get hives!
it's such a feeling that my love I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide!
I Wanna Hold Your Hand

suddenly someone embarrassed the turnstile
suddenly someone is there at the turnstile

The girl with colitis goes
the girl with kaleidescope eyes

Lucy in disguise, with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

There is a columnist in San Francisco named Jon Carroll who has written several columns on mondegreens, all of which I wish I had written. Here's an excerpt from one of them:

We believe that the most frequently submitted Mondegreen is still "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear" (known in the real world as that fine old hymn "Gladly The Cross I'd Bear"). A close second is "There's a bathroom on the right," a mishearing of "There's a bad moon on the rise" from the old Creedence Clearwater song "Bad Moon Rising."

Third place is still firmly held by "Excuse me while I kiss this guy," actually "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" from the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze." Mr. Hendrix was himself aware that he had been Mondegreened, and would occasionally, in performance, actually kiss a guy after saying that line.

Fourth place is probably occupied by Round John Virgin, a Shakespearean figure occasionally found in "Silent Night." Also high on the charts is a Mondegreen from "Groovin'", a popular song of an earlier era. (Kids, "groovin'" was kind of like "chillin'" except the clothing fit more tightly). In that song, the Rascals were singing "You and me endlessly," but many people heard "You and me and Leslie," leading to speculation about the exact identity of Leslie and the popularity of multiple couplings in the music world.

For those of you who have not yet received the pamphlet (mailed free to anyone who buys me an automobile), the word Mondegreen, meaning a mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric, was coined by the writer Sylvia Wright. As a child she had heard the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray" and had believed that one stanza went like this: Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands Oh where hae you been? They hae slay the Earl of Murray, And Lady Mondegreen.

Poor Lady Mondegreen, thought Sylvia Wright. A tragic heroine dying with her liege; how poetic. When it turned out, some years later, that what they had actually done was slay the Earl of Murray and lay him on the green, Wright was so distraught by the sudden disappearance of her heroine that she memorialized her with a neologism.

Neologism! What a good word! It has two definitions, both of which I like a lot:

1 : a new word, usage, or expression
2 : a meaningless word coined by a psychotic

I guess Mr. Carroll could have meant either, depending on the degree of Sylvia's* distraughtness.

***

Saints o' the day include Saint Credan, Saint John Eudes, Saint Mochta, and Saint Louis of Toulouse.

Saint Mochta ( who is not the patron saint of Starbucks) lived, according to legend, 300 years because he doubted the ages of the patriarchs in the OT. Apparently this was not a good thing. As Gershwin and Heyward noted in "Porgy and Bess,"

methuselah lived 900 years
methuselah lived 900 years
who calls that livin'
when no gal will give in
to no man what's 900 years

***

Trekkies, observe a moment of silence today and bow toward El Paso, where Gene Roddenberry was born on this day in 1921. He died in Santa Monica on October 24, 1991. What a world he gave us. And we gave a little of him back to that world on April 21, 1997, when his remains and those of Timothy Leary (high enough now, Tim?) were sent into outer space for eternity.

Oddly enough, August 19 is also the birthday of Jonathan Frakes ("Riker" from ST:TNG) and Diana Muldaur ("Katherine Pulaski" from ST:TNG). Diana Muldaur was also in at least one of the original Star Trek shows.

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"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

-George Bernard Shaw

*Although Sylvia Wright is mentioned all over the internet wherever wild mondegreens roam, there is NO other reference to her. Who is Sylvia? If you know, drop me an email.

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© Marilyn Jones 2002-2008