January 19th, 2014

IH - space

Sunday Word: Mondegreen

mon·de·green [ˈmɒndɪˌɡriːn]:
origin: (1954) Lady Mondegreen by Sylvia Wright

Here's the thing...I grew up listening to music before there was ever such a device as "The Internet". This being said, that means looking up the lyrics of songs, which you did not own, was not a straight forward process. In fact, sometimes even if you owned the material there may not be any lyrics anywhere on the case or liner notes.

And with that being said, I'd always been a smidgen puzzled by Mr. Mister's big hit "Kyrie", but I took the male in the story of the song to be quite taken with some beguiling woman named Kyrie; where she laid he must travel, and she seemed to conjure up the energy of "lasers".

No, she did not.

Because she did not exist, the man was never singing about any femme fatale. I was correct though, in understanding there was a strong and enchanting presence, but that was "Kyrie eleison" -- which is in fact a small prayer in the Greek language, never-the-less used within (Latin) Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Anglican church ceremonies. I know this now because I was recently inspired to look it up after getting a CD with mixed songs from the 1980's.

And that is exactly what a mondegreen is, accidentally misheard words or phrase, as a result of a homophone (similarly sounding words), that gives the original concept a new meaning; an aural malapropism.

Another example: In the book The Glass Menagerie, when Jim O’Connor nicknamed Laura Wingfield "Blue Roses", having misunderstood her childhood ailment of "pleurosis" -- the nickname becoming symbolism for a beautiful object, but one never naturally occurring, just like her favorite crystal animal; a fantasy.

That too is interesting because the origin of the word is also literary, from a story of the same name of Lady Mondegreen, within it quoting Scottish song lyrics: Ye highlands and ye lowlands / Oh where hae you been? / Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray / And Lady Mondegreen. As with Kyrie, there never was a Lady Mondegreen, for the author Sylvia Wright had misheard the words from The Bonny Earl of Murray, whose last line is actually, "slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green."

The mistake so famous that it grew a life of it's own! Mondegreen is a mondegreen.