M is for …Malapropisms & Mondegreens

MIf you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that I love words, languages and tongue-twisters.

As a bit of a grammar monster (although with no obvious expertise) I generally prefer to follow the rules, but I rate effective communication over perfect grammar any day.

You may think the two are inextricably linked, but I beg to differ. Our brains are able to understand words, even when they are incorrectly spelt or even confused for another similar sounding one.

As a result, these malapropisms have a real place in our conversations.

Malapropism:  The mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect 

Besides, they are sometimes too funny to ignore, so please indulge me as I step tentatively into this absurd world.

In his 1775 Restoration comedy, The Rivals, Richard Sheridan introduced a humorous character by the name of Mrs. Malaprop. The name is derived from the French mal à propos, which means inappropriate, and describes the manner in which she used many words in her speech.
The self-educated Mrs. Malaprop was always substituting a similar-sounding word for the word that she actually intended, often with the consequence of a hilariously nonsensical sentence. The name Malaprop has been immortalised in the form of the malapropism, any sentence in which one word has been used incorrectly in place of another.

These slips are sometimes divided into two broad classes: classical malapropisms, in which the mistakes are due to ignorance (as in the case of Mrs. Malaprop), and temporary slips of the tongue, in which the intended word is known by the speaker, but has been inadvertently replaced by another.

Some examples:

Flying saucers are just an optical conclusion.
A rolling stone gathers no moths.
Let’s get down to brass roots.
Their father was some kind of civil serpent.
You can lead a horse to manure but you can’t make him drink.
The flood damage was so bad they had to evaporate the city.

Did you spot the deliberate mistakes?

Mondegreens: a sort of aural malapropism.

Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally used for misheard song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech.

Check out this selection of misheard lyrics from popular songs (I bet you can’t resist singing along!):

“There’s a bathroom on the right.”
“There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater

“Midnight after you’re wasted.”
“Midnight at the oasis.”
Midnight at the Oasis, Maria Muldaur

“The girl with colitis goes by.”
“The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Beatles

“Sleep in heavenly peas.”
“Sleep in heavenly peace.”
Silent Night, Christmas carol

“I blow bubbles when you are not here.”
“My world crumbles when you are not here.”
I Try, Macy Gray

“I got no towel, I hung it up again.”
“I get knocked down, but I get up again.”
Tubthumping, Chumbawumba

“She’s got a chicken to ride.”
“She’s got a ticket to ride.”
Ticket to Ride, The Beatles

“You and me and Leslie.”
“You and me endlessly…”
Groovin’, The Rascals

“Are you going to starve an old friend?”
“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?”
Scarborough Fair, Simon and Garfunkel

“Donuts make my brown eyes blue.”
“Don’t it make my brown eyes blue.”
Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, Crystal Gale

“Got a lot of lucky peanuts.”
“Got a lot of love between us.”
Let’s Hang On. Frankie Vallee and the Four Seasons

“Hope the city voted for you.”
“Hopelessly devoted to you.”
Hopelessly Devoted to You, Grease

You are singing along to these right now, aren’t you?

Go on, admit it – you are! 🙂


4 thoughts on “M is for …Malapropisms & Mondegreens

  1. Holy cow, I’ve been a Mondegreen-er my whole life and didn’t know it! What an informative, whimsical post. Thanks for the chuckles (although I’ll be cursing you in a couple hours when these songs have repeated endlessly in my head!)

    1. I think we all fall into this group at some stage, but not always with such weird versions. Time to start miming the words rather than singing aloud! It is infectious though…..tra la la la…:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s