Mondegreens

| January 24, 2016

“Mondegreens are misheard words or phrases in conversations or lyrics. According to popular legend, the name comes from the accidental invention of a historical figure named Lady Mondegreen by a writer who, as a child, heard a Scottish ballad verse that went

They have slain the Earl of Murray

And theylaid him on the green

and misinterpreted it as

They have slain the Earl of Murray

And the Lady Mondegreen.

You can find numerous examples of misheard song lyrics on YouTube (warning: many of them are R-rated or NSFW). Here is a video showing some of the most famous pop music mondegreens along with some possible explanations for the common mistakes:

Your assignment:

(1) Read the article “Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (posted as “The Science of Misheard Lyrics” , and watch the above video.

(2) As you go through your week, observe and write down any mishearings that occur to you or to others in conversations, songs, or speeches. If you don’t happen to notice any you might try speaking more quickly than usual in an otherwise everyday interaction and see how well others understand you, or ask a friend or relative whether they have ever misheard something this way.

(3) Write up a one-page description of the mishearings you have observed in yourself or others. What was the intended meaning? What was heard instead? Why do you think those particular substitutions were perceived? (Possible reasons might include similar phonemes, accents, different dialects or idioms, the subject of the conversation or song, a noisy environment, cultural assumptions, prior relationships, or other factors.) How was the mishearing resolved, if at all? What does the phenomenon ofmondegreens tell us about the way we process information generally?

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Category: Essay

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