Friday, 5 October 2012


I promised more about these in a previous post. Well, here we are.

A mondegreen is a mishearing of a phrase - often a song lyric, but not originally. I used to have terrible trouble remembering the word  - how bizarre, I would think, but how excellent that the phenomenon has a proper name. I must remember it. Remember it? Did I heck as like (I live in the north now. It rubs off.) Then I found out (through the miracle of the interweb) why it's called that and now I can remember it because it's linked to something, not floating untethered in the wordsphere.

In November 1954, Harper's Magazine published an essay by Sylvia Wright called The Death of Lady Mondegreen. (As befits a masters' student, I tried to check the primary source. I found this. Those of you with powerful eyesight will no doubt be able to read it. I would require a subscription (or a prescription) in order to do so. Well, pooh to them. Have you read The Belfry Witches? If you have, you'll recognise the reference. If you haven't, what are you waiting for?)

I am indebted to Wikipedia for the following quotes from the essay:
“When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green". (Wright explained the need for a new term: )
The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.” (My underlining)

The concept has been extended, but sticking to Ms Wright's original definition,  I don't think I have any personal mondegreens. The only genuine mishearing I remember is thinking Elvis Presley was singing "Don't be cruel to a hard-backed stool" which is clearly not better than the original. Or is it? And I was singing all kinds of nonsense to Life on Mars, but I think we all were. Including Bowie. (I seem to have angered the gods of Blogger by copying from Wikipedia and now I can't get my font right. Well, pooh to them.)

At a singing workshop once someone introduced me to the wannabe Lady Nerth  which I think does qualify. 

I don't seem to have a relevant picture to post, so here is an irrelevant one. Go on, take the weight off for a few minutes.

Thanks for visiting - see you soon. Look - the font's back!


  1. Fabulous post - laughter, music and wordplay - what more could a girl ask for? As to the font... you're about to start exploring the joys of HTML editing - identifying random instructions which have interpolated themselves into your post and eliminating them with gusto!
    Alison x

    1. Mondegreen the First:

      A group of Catholic Grammar School girls, aged approx 14. One of them is called Cecilia (not me. I was going to say "obviously" though not necessarily obviously, as those who know me, know that I am already one name amendment to the good.) Because she is called Cecilia, we are all very affected by and giggly in response to Simon and Garfunkel's eponymous song, especially (of course) the line; Making love in the afternoon, with Cecilia up in my bedroom. Cecilia herself, belives there is a line in this embarrassing (for her) song which goes: "Cecilia, you're breaking my heart, you're shaking my coffee and bay leaves".

    2. It has just - and only just(!!) occurred to me to wonder whether she thought "my coffee and bay leaves" was some kind of American euphemism for male genitalia.

  2. Laughed a lot. Could you not find a slower version of Lady Nerth? Butterfly sang it for Grade 8 Singing and had to be constantly reined back last night.....

    I still see God sitting under the Palm, together with the Glory.....

    1. Oh yes, and can I have one of those benches please?

    2. Oops, I mean, of course, may I?

    3. Umm, too many commas in the sentence above I fear....sorry

  3. Have just been rendered quite incapable by Nell's comments. And I think coffee and bayleaves an excellent substitution for other shy-making terms. I shall adopt it immediately, although the occasions for their use are few and far between these days...
    Cestina/butterfly - I was going to seek another version of Lady Nerth but I became hypnotised by La Baker - I kept thinking "surely she'll fall over soon". And I'll find out where the bench was so you can commission one, although I don't know how you'll fit it into the van.
    Thanks for comments, all xx