Archive for the ‘Mishearings’ Category

More Ruthian re-shaping

August 25, 2016

A One Big Happy (dated 7/27) in my comics feed today: once again, Ruthie re-shapes an unfamiliar expression, in this case the legal-tinged word offense (‘a breach of a law or rule; an illegal act’ — NOAD2), in the phrase first offense:

with first offense re-shaped as thirsty fence, a phrase that doesn’t make sense, but at least has the familiar word fence in it (and is very very close phonetically to first offense: initial f vs. ūĚõČ, unaccented «Ě vs. i or I).

I suppose it’s possible that at some point before the time of the strip, Ruthie heard first offense, didn’t understand it, and re-shaped it ¬†But what the substitution really looks like is an old mishearing of first offense; mishearings very often don’t make sense, but do have parts that are recognizable words.

At this point, you’d really want to look at errors made by real, rather than cartoon, kids, in context.


Reciting formulas

April 13, 2016

The 3/13 One Big Happy, recently in my cartoon feed:

Ruthie and Joe are both mishearing parts of the Lord’s Prayer (in one of its many variants). Ruthie, line 1: “Our Father, who art in heaven”. Joe, line 2: “Hallowed be His name”. ¬†This is a highly formulaic text, in a strange variety of English, most often heard recited by groups of people mumbling out of synch with one other. The text is odd, and hard to make out: a perfect breeding place for mishearings.

About as good as texts sung to music. Songs often have remarkable words — poetic, allusive, dialectal, archaic, idiosyncratic, whatever — and singing itself and musical accompaniment deform and conceal wording. Hence classic mondegreens. Rote recitation of texts nurtures something very similar to mondegreens (often classed with them).

Rita M. Weep

April 1, 2016

A One Big Happy that appeared in my feed yesterday, though it’s dated 3/2:

I’m enormously fond of Ruthie’s ¬†attempts to find meaning in expressions that were unfamiliar to her when she first (mis)heard them, as here. She’d heard “read ’em and weep” used at a triumphant moment in playing poker, and clearly interpreted the beginning as the name Rita, but she isn’t entirely sure what the rest was, though she makes a try at M. Weep. (I think Rita M. Weep would be a fine character to weave a fantasy around. Maybe she’s the famous “lovely Rita, meter maid”.)

I note that the kids have picked up a good bit of poker talk. Trip jacks for “three jacks” is especially nice.

Ruthie and word division

March 3, 2016

Today’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie mishears a phrase by dividing it into words not in the intended way:

grave event > gravy vent. It’s possible to distinguish the two in speech, but in ordinary connected speech, they’re homophonous. Of course, gravy vent doesn’t make much sense, but then that’s true of many other mishearings as well.

Word division mishearings are not uncommon, and word division is sometimes also exploited in jokes.

Hoist a pint to the mondegreen

February 18, 2016

From Kim Darnell, a link to a Meriwether of Montana page offering (for sale) “Hilarious Mistaken Lyrics Stainless Steel Glasses”: pints with mondegreens on them. One example:

(Hey, you might be a dick, but at least you practice safe sex.)

The original: addicted to love.

This is the one mondegreen in the set with sexual vocabulary in the mishearing. Three others are food-related; go figure.


Unblogged mishearings

January 25, 2016

There is a Page on this blog with an inventory of postings about mishearings, but there are ten examples in my files that I haven’t “read into the record” in postings. Now to make them publicly available.


Tchaikovsky’s Polish Symphony

December 5, 2015

Listening to WQXR (classical music in NYC) last night, I though I heard the announcer explain that the next item, Tchaikovsky’s “Polish” Symphony (Symphony No. 3), was the only symphony to be written in a major key. Counterexamples crowded to mind like angry insects, so I decided I must have misheard. And indeed, what she said must have been something like “the only symphony he had written in a major key”. So: unique for Tchaikovsky, not for the music world as a whole.

But the symphony, rarely performed, then led me on to the world of dance, and George Balanchine.


In brief: phonological words

November 19, 2015

Heard — or, rather, misheard — ¬†in a tv commercial for Oral-B electric toothbrushes (which can be viewed here):

(1) I’m never going back to Emanuel Brush.

when what the actor was saying was:

(2) I’m never going back to a manual brush.

Now, since I have [«Ě] (rather than […™]) in the first syllable of the name Emanuel and the indefinite article a¬†[«Ě] usually forms a phonological word with the word that follows it, (1) and (2) are in fact normally homophonous for me.

Yes, I don’t know anyone named Emanuel Brush, so I don’t know how the name came to me, in a toothbrush ad, no less.

peanut(s), penis, and Cracker Jack

October 30, 2015

In a posting three days ago on matters having to do with a Pop-Tart commercial on tv, I reported that at first I heard the peanut in peanut butter as penis. Now a Facebook poster adds his own experience, which had to do with the Cracker Jack slogan (for many years), “Candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize”, which as a kid he heard as hawking “penis and a prize”; he took that as an early indicator that he was gay. And now I discover that there’s a rich vein of joking (much of it sophomoric) exploiting the phonetic similarity of peanuts and penis¬†(penis brittle and, yes, penis butter), plus considerable anxiety over the word peanuts from speakers of languages that disfavor consonant clusters (like /ts/).

Two topics here: the phonetic similarity of peanut(s) and penis; and some reflections on Cracker Jack, both the snack and its name.


Pop-Tart blasphemy

October 27, 2015

This Pop-Tart commercial for their new Peanut Butter & Jelly line went past me this morning:

Well, I heard the peanut of peanut butter as penis, but that’s no surprise for someone of my inclinations. I noted it, to add to my file of mishearings, but decided not to post about it; I don’t post about each instance separately. But then along came the One Million Moms and their campaign to try to force Kellogg’s to withdraw the ad, or at least edit one line they found offensive because of its “foul language”. From their 10/15 posting, “Contact Kellogg’s Concerning ‘Jam It’ Ad”:

“No! Ah, Jam It!” The advertisement could have ended with “No!” but Kellogg’s chose to include a phrase that sounded just like a curse word.

It took me a while to see that they were talking about the blasphemous profanity Damn it! / Dammit!,¬†which for me is the mildest sort of strong language. But they’re really serious Christians, who feel that children need protection from blasphemy, or allusions to blasphemy, in the media (in expressions with words like¬†Christ, God, damn, and hell in them — OMG!).