Mondegreens -- 01/18/12

We have all probably had at least one mondegreen.

A mondegreen is when you misunderstand something (for example, a quotation, a poem, the lyrics from a song). The term comes from a 1954 essay by writer Selma Wright in which she told how when she was young her mother would read a poem to her which included these lines:
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O'Moray
And laid him on the green.

However, she heard those last two lines as
They hae slain the Earl O'Moray
And Lady Mondegreen.

And the word mondregreen has now been added to newer dictionaries. (For example, in the online Merriam-Webster: mondegreen.) It does nicely label the problem, doesn't it?

How many people heard the Beatles singing about "Lucy in disguise with diamonds"?

There are now websites devoted to listing mondegreens. (Here's an example.) One common mondegreen was based on misheard lyrics in "Purple Haze" when people thought they heard Jimi Hendix singing "Scuse me while I kiss this guy" when he was actually singing "Scuse me while I kiss the sky." (Hendrix later took to clowning around in concerts and singing the mondegreen version of the lyrics.) One site collecting mondegreens is called www.kissthisguy.com.

I had a mondegreen of my own when I was a little kid. When people would be singing Christmas carols -- one favorite carol -- Adeste Fideles ("Oh Come, All Ye Faithful") -- which had these lyrics:
Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!

No, the mondegreen isn't there... I just wanted to remind you that the song mentions angels. My mondegreen is in the chorus:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

I always heard those lines as "O come, little Sedorphim" instead of "O come, let us adore him."

Well, after all, in church and Sunday School they were always talking about different kinds of angels (and these different kinds of angels had funny names). There were Seraphim and there were Cherubim, right? So why wouldn't there be Sedorphim? I imagined them as being those cute little baby angels you sometimes saw on Christmas cards, because the song even called them "little Sedorphim."

I finally realized that wasn't what we were supposed to be singing when one Christmas we were rehearsing before going caroling and I actually read the words on the page and realized I'd been singing incorrectly... but to this day I cannot hear that carol without hearing "O come, little Sedorphim."

SOPA and PIPA -- If you live in the United States, have you contacted your duly elected representatives about this yet? It's very easy to do -- just email them. Their House or Senate websites have a contact/email tool that lets you enter your message to them. (For those of you who live in Rhode Island, Congressman Langevin says about SOPA "It's a bad bill that threatens Internet openess & security." Both Senators from Rhode Island have indicated that they oppose PIPA. I do not know what Congressman Cicilline's position is, but I am not in his district. (Update: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had apparently so obfuscated his position that more than one list showed him as opposed to PIPA. However, in actuality, he is a supporter of PIPA. Which is about what I would have expected from him anyway.)

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