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

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Nuts and Bolts: mondegreen.

Hurray for the Bonny Earl of Murray, who gave us the word mondegreen.

No, I agree it's not a very nice word, but it's a pleasing and useful one to have around, all the same.

And what's the Bonny Earl of Murray got to do with it?

Well, it's all to do with this ballad:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

...except that it isn't actually Lady Mondegreen who got it in the neck at all: the Earl of Murray was slain alone. What happened was that they slew him, and then they laid him on the green.


I think that Lady Mondegreen is quite possibly an improvement.

Childhood is full of mondegreens. There's the famous hymn about Gladly, my cross-eyed bear, for instance (or, as the grown ups imagine, Gladly my cross I'd bear), and I personally spent quite a lot of time wondering where the three kings' home town of Orientar was. I even looked it up in the atlas.

Then there was the hit song Oh a tree in motion. It did seem a bit strange, but didn't get that one sorted out until...oooh...probably two or three years ago.

Ah well. Isn't wondering what on earth's going on what life is all about?

And if it isn't, well then, it should be.

Thing To Enjoy Today: a mondegreen. Everyone has their own examples. The American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her article "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," published in Harper's Magazine in 1954.

1 comment:

  1. Love these...can't think of my own but love the others.


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