That’s a moray

Yesterday I posted about (among other things) the song “That’s Amore”, as made famous by Dean Martin. Immediately friends began providing plays on the title: That’s a Moray”. Eels! It turns out that there is a small industry in this bit of linguistic playfulness. On to the parodies, and then some words about morays.

But first a phonological note on amore / a moray. The two take-offs in comments on yesterday’s posting depend on the fact that in ordinary connected speech, the indefinite article forms a phonological word with the immediately following word, so that amore and a moray are normally identical in pronunciation. (They can be made distinct, but ordinarily they’re homophonous.)

Now the parodies, beyond the two in yesterday’s posting. Here are two from meme generators:



But there are more extensive parodies. Here, from the amlrite site, devoted to “making fun of music”:

Parody Song Title: “That’s A Moray”
Parody Written by: Malcolm Higgins

when you’re diving at night, and your feet feel the bite,
that’s a moray
when your hand’s in the cave, suddenly you’ll need saved,
that’s a moray
when you blubber and scream, but you have a bad dream
that’s amore
when he hits all your fingers, with teeth that are stingers,
a moray…

that’s a moray that’s a moray
little fella

when he bites on your thumb, takes a chunk of your bum,
that’s a moray
when you reach in his cave, he’s all bravo and brave
he’s a moray

and it’s not how it feels, and you know you have eels,
that’s a moray….
scuzza me, but you see, let them be, or you’ll see
lotsa morays…….

And a link from Rod Williams, a link to jokes from the rec.comics.funny archives, this one from Terry Morris:

(Italian accordion music and the sound of SCUBA in background.)

(Verse) If you see a big eel,
and his teeth are like steel,
That’s a Moray. (A Moray!)

If he’s big and he’s mean
and he’s slimy and green,
That’s a Moray. (A Moray)

(Chorus) If he slices the hose,
and then leaves you to doze,
That’s a Moray!
A Moraaaaaaaaaaaayyyy!
A Moray.

(Verse) When he’s fanning his gills,
Better head for the hills,
That’s a Moray. (A Moray!)

From a hole in the reef,
He will bring you much grief,
That’s a Moray. (A Moray!)

(Chorus) If he slices the hose,
and then leaves you to doze,
That’s a Moray!
A Moraaaaaaaaaaaayyyy!
A Moray.

No doubt there are many many more, with rhyming couplets on a moray theme, copying the pattern of “That’s Amore” — each pair together making a line of anapestic tetrameter (WWS WWS / WWS WWS), each followed by “That’s a moray”.

Morays. First the (essentially boring) etymology of the name, which came into English in the 17th century from Portuguese, where it descended from Latin, which got it from Greek, where it referred to a sea creature, possibly a type of moray.

Then from Wikipedia:

Moray eels [or morays] or Muraenidae are a family of cosmopolitan eels. The approximately 200 species in 15 genera are almost exclusively marine …

The smallest moray is likely Snyder’s moray (Anarchias leucurus), which attains a maximum length of 11.5 cm (4.5 in), while the longest species, the slender giant moray (Strophidon sathete) reaches up to 4 m (13 ft). The largest in terms of total mass is the giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus), which reaches 3 m (9.8 ft) in length and 30 kg (66 lb) in weight.

Morays live in burrows, have patterned bodies, and sport rear-hooked teeth. Here’s a whitemouth moray at the entrance to its burrow; you can appreciate the patterned body (different patterns in different species) and those fearsome teeth:


Morays have a reputation for being vicious, but in fact they are reclusive and not at all aggressive. Unless, of course, you threaten its burrow, in which case it will attack. Also,

Morays have poor vision and rely mostly on their acute sense of smell, making distinguishing between fingers and held food difficult; numerous divers have lost fingers while attempting hand feedings, so the hand feeding of moray eels has been banned in some locations, including the Great Barrier Reef [off Australia]. The moray’s rear-hooked teeth and primitive but strong bite mechanism also makes bites on humans more severe, as the eel cannot release its grip, even in death, and must be manually pried off. (more from Wikipedia)

Moral: don’t mess with the moray. Except in song.

9 Responses to “That’s a moray”

  1. martin Says:

    Hmmm, there’s another interesting linkage here, I think.

    “That’s a moray” is a mondegreen, a term that comes from a mishearing of a line in the Scottish Ballad “The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray”.

    Moray is a district in Scotland, one of the seven ancient earldoms.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      All this is true, and is well-known (even mentioned in a posting of mine on mondegreens, but it’s really beside the point; it’s just another association with the expression a moray. But there are no mondegreens in the examples in my posting.

      Moray or Muray is also an Inca ruin, an archaeological site in Peru. And there’s “Moray, an interactive shareware wireframe modeller for the PC platform, supporting POV-Ray 3.5”. And no doubt more, but none of these is relevant to my posting above; they’re just possible free associations to the expression moray. Entertaining, maybe, but beside the point.

  2. Joseph F Foster Says:

    In teaching students about phonological structure, stress and / or tone contours, and vowel length, back when students had actually heard of Dean Martin, I was know to shamelessly resort to

    “When the vowel strikes your ear like there’s another one near,

    That’s two morae!”

  3. rehana Says:

    I’m fond of this one:

  4. javava2012 Says:

    While doing cat rescue some time back (for 3.5 years, during which I found homes for close to 1100 of them, I created an email address, which I still use occasionally.

  5. Taotie Says:

    When it lurks in the reef
    With pharyngeal teeth
    That’s a moray….

    When its jaws opens wide
    And there’s more jaws inside
    That’s a moray….

  6. Anon Says:

    When it opens its maw
    And out comes one more jaw
    That’s a moray

  7. Olivia Says:

    When an eel has a maw
    With pharyngeal jaw
    That’s a moray

    If it skulks in a reef
    And has two sets of teeth
    That’s a moray

    If it chomps in your thigh
    And you bleed out and die
    That’s a moray

  8. Josie Says:

    when its jaws open wide and theres more jaws inside, thats a morayyyyyyy

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