Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do you hear what I hear?

Maybe not. Don’t assume that your speech audience understands your every word. You might want to use some different words when you repeat a point or summarize. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a modegreen as:

“A word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung.”

In December 2013 the web site had a page about The Red and The Mondegreen with misheard lyrics from Christmas carols including the opening line:

“Joy to the world, the lord has gum!”

Was that regular or sugar-free gum?

I just got another illustration of just how far off some listeners can stray. When the Master Calls the Roll is a song about the Civil War on Rosanne Cash’s new album The River & the Thread. You can watch a video of it performed live here or listen to the studio version here.

When I did a web search for the lyrics, I found many sites had copied the same silly version. Here’s the second half, with ten misheard words or phrases coralled inside square brackets:  

"Chorus 2:
[Know] Though the season may come
[Know] Though the season may go
Beware the storm clouds gather
Take [heat in warm of soul] heed dear mortal soul
When the master calls the roll

But, can this union be preserved?
The soldier boy was crying
I will never travel back to her
But not for lack of trying

It’s a love of one true [heart at last] hearted lass
That made the boy a hero
But a rifle ball and a cannon blast
Cut him down to zero

Oh Virginia [once] whence I came
I’ll see you when I’m younger
And I’ll know you by your hills again
This [town] time from six feet under

Chorus 3:
[Know] Though the season may come
[Know] Though the season may go
[A man is] What man has torn asunder
[But someday we may know] Will someday be made whole
When the master calls the roll

Final chorus:
Though the storm clouds gather
Let the union be made whole
When the master calls the roll.”

Note that they got the final "Though" correct, but didn't think about whether all their preceding "[Know]s might be wrong. 

The 1901 image came from the Library of Congress.

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