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Say what?

I am about halfway through a book called That or Which, and Why, by the late Evan Jenkins, who used to write the "Language Corner" for Columbia Journalism Review until his death in 2007.
(New York Times obituary here)

I sit down with books like this because the more I learn about the English language, the more I realize how little I really know. And when such books are informative and witty, like the Jenkins book, they're worth the price of purchase.

Ninety-nine pages into the Jenkins book, I encountered a term I'd never heard before: "mondegreens." Jenkins describes a mondegreen as "a sort of typographical error of the ear." He cited a line from The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." The line is "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes."

His "mondegreen" example of that line: "The girl with colitis goes by."

I may never hear, much less use, the word "mondegreen" again, but I'll never forget that line.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Oh! Kaplan told us about these way back in our first American lit course. Remember? Kenneth Goldsmith had a whole book of them from songs he listened to. Examples I remember: Hit me with your pet shark (hit me with your best shot) and chipmunks toasting on an open fire.

Sadly, this is what I remember from the course.
Apr. 6th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
Apr. 7th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
"I'm the God of Velveeta, baby." I'm still wiping the tears from my eyes. The one about puking owls had me going too.
Apr. 7th, 2010 04:22 am (UTC)
He's got the whole world in his pants...
Apr. 8th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Apr. 7th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
"You say good-bye, I say hell no." The one about the "kid and Gore Vidal" made me think of Norman Mailer head-butting Gore Vidal...

I'm with you, Dani, "hit me with your pet shark" is one of my favorite things from that class.
Apr. 7th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC)
I will make sure you hear the word mondegreen again. :) If you click on this anyway.
Apr. 8th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
Any video that can combine an image of Celine Dion with the phrase "hot dogs" deserves widespread play. Thanks!
Apr. 7th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
That could be a whole book - musical mondegreens - and one I imagine we could all contribute to if we were willing to admit our mis-hears.

Here's a fun site:
Apr. 8th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
"Baking carrot biscuits" for the immortal Bachman Tuna Overdrive. Classic.

The link in tanadriel's reply above has some stuff that will leave you howling.
Apr. 8th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
That's the one that jumped out at me, too!
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
Dirty bees and the dumb birds cheep.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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