Monday, April 14, 2008

How's That Again?

I'd like to start this blog with a couple of definitions:

Mondegreen - the misinterpretation of a line or lyric in a song due to homophony.

Homophones - words with the same pronunciation.

The following info was copied from Wikipedia:

(start quote)The American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term mondegreen in an essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," which was published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954.[1] In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the final line from the 17th century ballad "The Bonnie Earl O' Murray." She wrote: When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray, [sic]
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green." As Wright explained the need for a new term, "The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original." (end quote)

Although most people don't know the actual term mondegreen, they're familiar with them. I can actually remember the first mondegreen I ever encountered. I was very little (I hadn't learned to read yet) and in church we sang a hymn called "He Lives". Part of the last verse goes, "the hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find none other is so loving, so good and kind." I thought the verse went "the hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find none other is salami, so good and kind." Maybe I was hungry, or something.

The reason I bring this subject up is because a favorite band of mine, Creedence Clearwater Revival, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to mondegreens. "There's a bathroom on the right" (which is supposed to be "There's a bad moon on the rise") is #2 in the top three mondegreens listed by some dude named Jon Carroll. I don't think that it's a coincedence that "bathroom on the right" is #2, do you?

Whatever. Back to the point about CCR music being rife with mondegreens. I believe the reason there are so many of them is that John Fogerty is nearly impossible to understand at times. Take the song "Good Golly Miss Molly". I can't comprehend half of what he's trying to sing. And then there's "Willy and the Poor Boys". I had to Google the lyrics to discover that part of the first verse, which sounds like "Willy pulls a doo-dad and his nose has got a hump" is in reality "Willy pulls a tune out and he blows it on the harp". However, there are those times when Fogerty enunciates well enough to be understood. I love the songs "Looking Out My Back Door" and "Travelin' Band". They're both fun to sing along with, although I've not yet mastered the Fogerty yell in "Travelin' Band". (My girls have.) Right now I have The Best of CCR two disc set in my truck's player, and I've discovered that the best way to listen to "Travelin' Band" is with the volume all the way up, the windows all the way down, and the pedal all the way to the floor. Well, not quite all the way. But if I don't set the cruise control I find myself moving waaaaayy faster than I should be. Fortunately I've not done this in front of any law enforcement vehicles.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say that Fogerty cashed in on these misinterpretations and would deliberately sing them in concerts. Not that anyone would notice the difference. He was probably just an unintelligible live as he was recorded. But he must have had fun doing it, or else he wouldn't have, now would he?

Just so long as he kept on chooglin'.



P.S. A special note to my friend Bismuth: ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!!!!

3 Comments:

Blogger Derek said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Bismuth said...

heh... that last comment should have been me. Durn aliases...

Big 12 represent!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

You are spot on about Fogerty - Sam Whisenhunt and I used to talk about some of his songs..."WHAT is he saying there???" In fact, I have a concert video where you can see and hear him sing the "bathroom" part.

Now, how about our family's favorite mondegreen:
Song For Jeffrey by Jethro Tull
-original: Don't see, see, see where I'm goin'
-our version (thanks to Tim): I ceased to see where I'm goin'!

7:57 AM  

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