The best thing about having a younger sister is the excuse it gives me to re-read all those children books I loved so much as a child. Upon re-reading Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona the Pest,” I was happily reminded of the mistake Ramona made while singing the American National Anthem on her first day of kindergarten. The 5-year-old Ramona mishears the line “dawns early light” as “dawnzer lee light.” I found this exponentially more humorous than my younger sister, who stared at me blankly as I laughed until I cried.
To redeem myself, I mentioned the incident to a friend of mine, who reassured me that Ramona’s mistake was indeed a funny one. She also mentioned a couple of similar mistakes she made as a child. To her, “The Wizard of Oz” was the “Wizard a Foz,” and up until two years ago the commonly used phrase “play it by ear” was misheard as “play it by year.” Hearing this, I again burst into a bout of embarrassingly loud laughter, while my friend glared at me.
After doing some extensive googling, I found that there actually is a word to describe these confusions – mondegreen. The word mondegreen is defined as “representing a series of words resulting from the mishearing of a statement or song lyric.” The term can be attributed to Sylvia Wright, who was horrified to discover that she had for many years misunderstood the last line of the fist stanza of the poem “The Bonny Earl of Murray.” The line reads: and they laid him on the Green. Wright misheard the line as: and Lady Mondegreen.
Living in a community brimming with second language English speakers makes my life a fertile field for mondegreens, especially when children and their limited vocabularies are involved. I have put together a list of my top 6 favorite mondegreens:
|Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble; tres bien ensemble.
– “Michelle” by the Beatles
|Sunday monkey won’t play piano song play piano song.|
|I get knocked down, but I get up again
– “I Get Knocked Down” by Chumbawumba
|I got no towel, I hung it up again|
|The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind
– “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan
|Dead ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind|
|My world crumbles when you are not here.
– “I Try” by Macy Gray
|I blow bubbles when you are not near|
|She’s got a ticket to ride
– “Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles
|She’s got a chicken to ride|
|My life is brilliant
– “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
|My wife is pregnant|