This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Nuts and Bolts: soramimi.

No, you must remember the Aero song.

One ton of Aero, da-dee-da
One ton of Aero...

Well, that's what it's always sounded like to me, in any case.

It can be difficult to make out the lyrics of a song when it's in your own language, but when a song's in a foreign language things can sometimes get very silly indeed.

That song is really about a girl from Guantanamo:

Guajira Guantanamera...

If the mishearing happens to a lyric in your own language it's called a mondegreen; but from one language to another it's called a soramimi.

I once had a long conversation on a train with a charming young Italian man called Beniamino who wanted to know why the commonest word in English songs wasn't in his dictionary. Everyone, he complained, sang of skirts. Luckily it was a fourteen hour journey, and so we finally did manage to get to the bottom of the problem (his English was about as good as my Italian) which centred on the ubiquity in English song of the word gonna.

Of course every pair of languages throws up the same problem. The Queen song Another One Bites The Dust is in Serbo-Croatian very like "a Radovan baca daske", or "and Radovan is throwing the planks".

And I must say that I personally am still very much intrigued by that happy though foolish young lady Sunny Lemon Tina in the old song Frère Jacques.

Thing To Own Up To Today: a soramimi. This word, 空耳, means mishearing or (feigned) deafness, or empty ear, in Japanese.


  1. Now I fancy an Aero. I don't even like Aeros that much. This is a brilliant post - I want to cover mondegreen, but that'll be in several years. What's it called when you hear something in a piece of music but there aren't even any words? I used to hear my Mum calling me from the introduction of Burundi Blues by Beats International, so much so that I would have to turn the tape off and check that she hadn't called me. Hmm.

  2. Thanks very much, Ed.

    Yes, sometimes something in this house makes a sound like the doorbell, I've no idea what it is, and I have to go and check.

    I've tended to put it down in my own case to being mildly bonkers...