Fairytale of mondegreen

Thanks to the University of Brighton linguistics blog for my inspiration. After reading Liam Scholey’s post about how on earth we all manage to understand Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, I started thinking about Christmas song mondegreens.

A mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, often a poem or song lyric. One of the best-known mondegreens can be found in Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix where many people hear ‘Excuse me while I kiss this guy’ instead of the actual lyric which is ‘Excuse me while I kiss the sky‘.

The word mondegreen itself can be traced back to the American writer Sylvia Wright who in 1954 coined the term in her essay ‘The Death of Lady Mondegreen’. As a child, Wright heard a line from a poem as ‘They hae slain the Earl O’Moray, And Lady Mondegreen’. It wasn’t until later she realised that the actual line was: ‘They hae slain the Earl O’Moray, And laid him on the green’.

When we hear a mondegreen we sometimes mishear a word itself, but often we mishear where one word ends and the next one begins, as in the case of the Purple Haze lyric above. This is called misdivision. We reanalyse the sounds that we hear and try to match them with words that we know and ones that we think would fit into the sentence or story we’re hearing.

Christmas tree

Because of the way that Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of the Pogues, pronounces (or rather doesn’t pronounce) the words, Fairytale of New York does lend itself to a number of mondegreens. One of the most common being ‘God I’m the lucky one, came in at ten to one’ instead of the actual lyric: ‘Got on a lucky one, came in eighteen to one.’ There are quite a few more mondegreens from this song listed here.

One of my very favourite mondegreens ever comes from a dear friend of mine. After many many years of loving the song Golden Brown by The Stranglers, we were listening to it one time and my friend suddenly asked ‘What’s a mansheron?’ We all looked around puzzled and asked him for some clarification. He explained ‘The first lyrics of the song: “Golden Brown, texture like sun; Lays me down, with my mansherons”. What’s a mansheron?’ To which we all burst out laughing and told him what the actual lyrics are:

‘Golden Brown, texture like sun
Lays me down, with my mind she runs

I’m not even sure if it’s a true mondegreen as he made up an entirely new word, but I’ve never forgotten the term mondegreen since that day!

Have you got any mondegreens that you’ve heard? Oh and now you should definitely try listening (and singing) along to Fairytale of New York using the guide in the Brighton blog post. It’s a classic Christmas song. Enjoy.


The wonder of you, Twitter

Things  got away from me a little bit in the last week which was hectic to say the least. So, the greatly-imagined blog post I wanted to put up has not as yet materialised. I decided instead to write a brief, light-hearted one about just how great I think Twitter is.

Now, I’m sure for many of you who may be reading this, I’m preaching to the converted. However, I know that among certain of my friends, Twitter comes in for quite a bit of grief. Most of the complaints I hear involve something like ‘I just don’t get it’ and ‘It’s just a bunch of media idiots shouting about themselves’. So, I think my beloved ‘Twitterverse’ deserves a bit of appreciation and TLC from time to time.

It did take me a while to ‘get’ Twitter. I wasn’t sure who to ‘follow’ at first and wasn’t entirely sure why stalking had apparently become so popular. But once I decided to use it pretty much exclusively for work and found other people working in the same areas and with similar interests to me, I was quickly able to build up a network that provides me with an informative and stimulating set of tweets on my timeline whenever I go on.


As I said, I do only use Twitter for work. As with Facebook, I believe you create the cyber world around you. So, for example, my husband’s Facebook and Twitter worlds look very different from mine. He is a drummer and uses both Facebook and Twitter for social and work purposes. This manifests itself in him having a lot of enviable posts and tweets from amazing drummers playing somewhere awesome and lots of close ups of drum kits (seriously, how many drum kits does one man need to see?!). Whereas, my Facebook is primarily social – lots of status updates about what people are having for breakfast – and my Twitter is work – in general this means academic questions and articles and socio-political information about Roma affairs and migration.

However, the bare information traffic that passes through my timeline is only the start. The thing that I have really come to appreciate is the support and real sense of community that I find on Twitter. I am studying for my PhD in relative isolation. I’m the only sociolinguist at my uni and, being in my writing up year, I don’t always get out of the house as much as I should. Through Twitter, I am able to contact and have conversations with people involved in my field from all around the world. There is no way that I could have chatted so regularly and informally and on so many topics with these people without Twitter. Email just wouldn’t be the same.

I haven’t met most of my ‘Tweeps’ face-to-face, but still the support is there. If someone needs a research paper, there’s sure to be another person on there who can send it to them, and when we’re having PhD related crises, there are people out there who can understand and help (I adore my husband and he supports me greatly, but there are some things you just don’t get unless you’ve been through it yourself!). We can have a joke, and some people have even set up their own long-distance film nights!

So, to all those Twitter doubters out there, if any of you are reading this: firstly, there is no right or wrong way to use it, but if it helps, decide what purpose you want to use Twitter for and build your Twitterverse around that; go on regularly and contribute; show your own personality; and most of all have fun with it. My last word, in a very uncool, hip-hop stylie, goes out to all my Tweeps. Thanks for your ongoing support, entertainment, and advice (not necessarily in that order).