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Thread: I Led The Pigeons to the Mondegreen

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    I Led The Pigeons to the Mondegreen

    It should come as no surprise to any American that this has been one benighted year, so Fourth of July celebrations may tend to be muted — though unfortunately not enough to discourage some mischief-maker from setting his house afire with quasi-legal fireworks.

    Nevertheless reasons to celebrate Independence Day still remain. One is the fact that (according to Rachel Maddow) annus horribilis is more than half-way over, and the other is that Americans of all so-called “stripes” still manage to recall our national traditions.

    Nearly every public school kid learns to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which decades ago provided the topic for a Reader’s Digest article and a language column by the late, great William Safire (1929-2009.)

    https://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/14/magazine/100-years-new-york-times-language-may-27-1979-led-pigeons-flag.html

    Kids often mangle the exact pronunciation of words and repeat what they believe they are hearing, such as reciting the opening phrase as “I led the pigeons to the flag.” Safire first characterizes such language quirks as “false homonyms,” but ultimately corrects the term to metanalysis, an aural phenomenon that occurs in the process of acquiring language.

    As it turns out, grown-ups as well as children often write and mispronounce words and phrases. Safire mentions a variety of celebrities of the past whose names have been misheard. Once I had a student whose composition on “A Person I Admire” extolled the virtues of deep sea explorer and TV star Jocko Stove. Another term for the elements of quirky talk is “eggcorns.”

    An archived article from The Atlantic explores the subject further with other fascinating language oddities, such as eggcorns, misquotations, and mondegreens.

    Jen Doll does culture a good service by examining misquoted movie lines. The online article actually features a clip from the film, Casablanca. But I have to say that the most quoted line from that movie doesn’t have anything to do with piano playing. Instead it concerns feigned surprise over the presence of gambling in the establishment. Ironically, that particular line of dialogue is quoted exactly. Although the movie was released nearly 80 years ago, these days it’s almost against an unwritten law to express a certain term only once. One must say, “I’m shocked. Shocked.”

    The same kind of late coinage affected a term stemming from a movie released a year later. More and more we hear about politicians, the Media, pop culture, etc. manipulating a person’s perception of reality just as Charles Boyer did to Ingrid Bergman in that film. Popping up in 60s slang, the phrase began to appear in clinical journals in the 70s, but the term’s really popular now: “gaslighting.”


    Regardless of the quality of our auditory skills (age-related or otherwise), few of us can claim to have heard every song lyric correctly. This is understandable, since most pop and rock vocalists for the past half-century have been unintelligible, despite the grimaces and tightly-shut eyes, which fans could see — and sometimes swoon over — as seen on TV. So much for sprezzatura.

    Quite the opposite of Nat King Cole and his articulate phrasing, singers mumbled and slurred their words so much that the record labels decided to print the lyrics on the back of the LP album covers. Because of this, some spelling variants of English became more common. For instance, today we are more likely to see the phrase “all right” spelled as “alright.”

    No wonder so many of us heard meanings beyond the artists’ intention. Thus the phenomenon of the “mondegreen,” a highly individualistic mishearing of a song lyric. The Atlantic article cites a listener who thought that the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” referred to Peanuts characters: “Lucy in the Sky with Linus.” (Incidentally, the song led to a semi-popular parody called “Judy in Disguise with Glasses.”)

    Yours fooly was more a Sinatra fan as well of early jazzmen, such as “Big Spider Beck” cited by Safire, not to mention “the loneliest monk,” about whom a teen reporter asked the saxophone-playing Bill Clinton. I also liked sitcoms. So I didn’t associate “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” with an allusion to LSD. I thought it was about Lucy dropping her scheme to get into Ricky’s show in order to take up astronomy.



    https://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/14/magazine/100-years-new-york-times-language-may-27-1979-led-pigeons-flag.html

    https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2012/09/ways-which-we-mistake-our-words/323150/
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 07-05-2020 at 02:52 PM. Reason: a typo and a repeated word

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Caramba! I quite forgot about the 4th of July!

    Congrats! And as the English liked to say in the 19 C novels: Let`s hope that the second half of the year will be as well as can be expected. Or, maybe, even better!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    I love mondegreens (cool word). Some children's renditions of hymns from my faith: (from https://www.ldsliving.com/Hilarious-...Lyrics/s/76445 )

    • "High on a mountain top, a badger killed a squirrel. Ye Nations now look up, he waves to all the world."

    • "Come, come ye saints! No toilet paper here!"
    ... (appropriate for these times I guess)

    • "Jesus wants me for a zom-bie!'"

    • "Star Wars gleaming, shepherds screaming."


    Growing up I often misheard and/or misunderstood popular song lyrics. I still find lyrics, when researching, that catch me off guard.

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor
    tailor

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
    would you see me origami

    7-8-2015

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    I must confess Aunty that many aeons ago I, (and other sallow reprobates), were guilty of reverse mondegreens when singing in the school morning assembly. The hymn with the lines “Bless Him for His Grace and Favour,” are exactly the same stanza as the German national anthem “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles.” We used to belt that out, until teachers' eyes turned, and then reverted to the more religious alternative.



    I no doubt will be answerable for it one day to the Almighty, and may in celestial circumstances be unable to curry either grace or favour.



    Later in life I had to attend a meeting in the Middle East on a gas plant, where the Client Mobil was mainly represented by Texans. During it I was asked about the “rout.” A rather difficult conversation ensued. I said I could not understand the use of that word. How was it spelt? The answer was R O U T E. I responded, “Oh you mean route, pronounced “root.” This led as you can imagine to further confusion.



    Don't you just love pendent neologisms, or the potential confusion of: alliterations, assonances or tropes? But then, that is the art we have embraced; namely making the erratic components of language arrange themselves in living images.



    Take care & best wishes. M.

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol. Laughed a lot at these posts. Now will some kind human soul( and native in English) tell me the difference in the pronunciation of "route" and "root"?
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Danik

    We in Albion pronounce both route and root the same as "root."

    Our cousins across the pond pronounce route as "route." This to us is when a battle adversely turns and the losing side retreats in headlong confusion.

    Keep well.
    M.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Danik

    We in Albion pronounce both route and root the same as "root."

    Our cousins across the pond pronounce route as "rout."This to us is when a battle adversely turns and the losing side retreats in headlong confusion.

    Keep well.
    M.

  8. #8
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Many thanks for your explanation, Manichaean. I am very glad, because my English variant is UK, and so I wasn´t wrong.
    I read that in England the pubs are reopening today with special Covid measures.
    Here bars and restaurants are opening on a reduced time basis, but Covid numbers are still very high.
    Keep well too!
    Danik
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  9. #9
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    We came 90% out of lockdown on Saturday: pubs, restaurants, most shops & hairdressers. But gyms, theatres etc still closed. The toll has been too much though with over 44,000 dead for these small islands. But I think we are past the worst. It seems that many in South America are in the eye of the storm now. As for poor America, its tragic what's happening there. Best wishes. M.

  10. #10
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    We still are in the eye of the storm, M. But in São Paulo, even theaters and show houses are going to be reopened soon.

    Best wishes,
    Danik
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 07-07-2020 at 10:44 AM.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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