Saturday, June 8, 2013


Weird Literary Terms Part 2

What is a Mondegreen? I'm sure you all have experienced it at one time or another.
Wikipedia defines it as:
...the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It most commonly is applied to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song.
For example - "Gladly the cross I'd bear..." becomes, "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear."
And - "There's a bad moon on the rise," becomes, "There's a bathroom on the right."

I did some research and discovered the etymology and origin of this interesting word. Apparently, Sylvia Wright, an American writer of the 1950's, wrote an essay titled: The Death of Lady Mondegreen. In this essay, she writes:
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 O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
Turns out, this poem is the 17th century ballad, "The Bonny Earl O'Moray," and the line is actually, "And laid him on the green." Further in the essay, Wright decides:
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.
I realized that I had some of these gems in my own experience - which, as you will soon see, prove my "classic" education and literary nerdiness.

Firstly, when I was about twelve-ish, I heard the song Dynamite. I thought it had a reference to an Italian astronomer in it. When I learned the real lyrics, I was quite disappointed.

The actual words are:
I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, singing eh-oh, gotta let go.....
 My version:
I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, singing eh-oh, Galileo.....
Isn't that so much better? :-) In fact, it's so much better that I've decided to write a parody.
I cast my eyes up to the stars sometimes, singing eh-oh, Galileo...

Maybe not.

Anyway, I have another one, and a little more recent. A certain song which everyone was singing last year made me wonder what sort of dance moves a lawyer would have - and why this song considered them so... sexy.

The song is Moves Like Jagger.

"Who is this Jagger, anyway?" I ask my friends.
They all look at me, horrified.
"Mick Jagger. You don't know who Mick Jagger is!?"
I change the subject.

But no, I didn't know who Mick Jagger was. (I do now, by the way.)

The closest thing to a Jagger that I knew was Mr. Jaggers from Dickens' Great Expectations. He's a lawyer. And he seems rather stiff - he definitely has no impressive "moves."

Or maybe he does, as these old engravings reveal:

He looks like he's disco dancing in that one! And what about this:

Though I am rather curious to know who that other guy is, looking under Mr. Jaggers's coattails.
(I haven't read Great Expectations in a while. If you can elucidate this picture, please do so.)

So there you go - you see how shielded my childhood was.

Though personally, I would prefer Mr. Jaggers to Mick anyday.


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