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AWADmail Issue 29

April 10, 2001

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages


From: Philippe Gray (pgrayATconnery.com.au)
Subject: spoonerisms

As a dinner was coming to a close I once invited everyone to "Please Chatter" upon arrival of the Cheese Platter!


From: NDK (ndkATallforart.com)
Subject: Spoonerism

When Mum and Dad get upset, they become Dum and Mad.


From: Nora (pithyATwebtv.net)
Subject: Spoonerisms

Isaac Asimov, who loved puns, had a story about a man who committed the perfect murder, by taking a time machine ahead, past the statute of limitations. The judge decreed: A niche in time saves Stein.


From: Richard Murray (ridgeapoATmnsi.net)
Subject: mondegreen

My mother (known as "Noodles" by grandchildren) wears hearing-aids. When Pavarotti performed at Lady Diana's funeral, she remarked "Why are they letting him sing after he chased her through the tunnel?"


From: Armin Arndt (aarndtATmail.ewu.edu)
Subject: mondegreens, sort of...

I have two examples of a kind of word messup, perhaps equivalent to a mondegreen but not exactly a member of the category. Nearly two decades ago I heard the author Anthony Burgess speak. He responded to the question, often asked, "What does the title: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE mean?" Mr. Burgess replied he had intended to name the book "A Clockwork Orang", Orang being "man" in the language of Indonesia, the country where he was living when he wrote the book. One of his editors changed orang into orange. The second example is from Anne McCaffrey who wished to name her collection of stories "Get of the Unicorn." "Get" in this case referring to progeny. Her editors changed it to GET OFF THE UNICORN. I'm wondering if there are other examples of this editorial arrogance and if there is a name for it.

    Burgess most likely lived in Malaysia. Indeed, the word "orang" means "man" in the Malay language. That's where we get orangutan, literally, "man of the forest" from. On the brighter side, someone didn't try to change the title to "GET OFF OF THE UNICORN."
    The stories you shared are instances of hypercorrection. To answer your other question, an example of change in title is J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" which was published in the US as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" fearing the American readers will not get "philosopher's stone." Finally, I do believe editors add value, though you could certainly find all kinds of oranges in a bunch. -Anu


From: Maria Victoria Go (maria_victoria.goATroche.com)
Subject: Is it "too late to pull a rope"?

Here's another example of a Mondegreen: My husband and I were shopping for a new car back when the intermittent wipers were a razzle-dazzle feature. But I was quite taken aback when the salesperson touted one of the features of the car as "intimate" wipers - and I nearly burst out laughing at the image of these wipers giving me a big hug at the end of the day. But then again, I thought, is he trying to sell this to the "necking/petting" crowd?


From: TS Raman (witanATbol.net.in)
Subject: Mondegreen

Here is a good mondegreen. At the end of a long and probably very boring meal (at a formal dinner), (British Prime Minister) Macmillan turned to Madame de Gaulle and asked politely what she was looking forward to in her retirement. Quick as a flash the elderly lady replied: "A penis." Macmillan had been trained all his life never to appear shocked, but even he was a bit taken aback. After drawling out a series of polite platitudes, "Well, I can see your point of view," "Don't have much time for that sort of thing nowadays" It gradually dawned on him to his intense relief that what the old girl had actually said was "happiness."
[Paul Foot, in the essay A New Definition: The Quality of Life, British Medical Journal, Vol 321, Dec 2000]


From: Brett (brettleyAThotmail.com)
Subject: Mondegreen

Does anyone remember the song 'Emotion' written by the BeeGees and sung by Samantha Sang? Part of the lyric goes "I cry me a river, that leads to your ocean..." A friend from high school used to sincerely think she had the song right when she sang "I cry me a river, that leads to erosion..."


From: Lydia Ross (keenongreenATearthlink.net)
Subject: mondegreen

A woman once informed me, in a thick Queens accent, that she had PSDS. That sounded bad to me. Poor thing, but what disease could that be? I asked her to repeat it at least five times, but I still couldn't figure out what she was afflicted with. In frustration she grabbed her earlobe and repeated slowly "P S D S". Oh! I finally got it. She had "pierced ears."


From: Frances (zilahATwebtv.net)
Subject: Mondegreens

I was helping my friend pack away her Christmas ornaments,while labeling the boxes, she said, "Mark this one... Mini Christmas Lights." So I did: i "Many Christmas Lights."


From: Mel Stampe (mstampeATfuse.net)
Subject: Mondegreen

We have two daughters, Leah and Hannah, who are 3 years apart in age. When Leah, the older of the two, was around 6 or 7 we enrolled her in a ballet class. Her younger sister liked the one piece garment worn to class by her older sister and asked us if we would get her a Hannah-tard.


From: Richard DeLombard (pogoATlrbcg.com)
Subject: mondegreen story

Reading these accounts of mondegreen reminded me of a story my sisters related after they attended a meeting with our mother. As mom entered the hall, a man greeted her with "Help yourself." Mom replied, "Thank you" and proceeded to take some of the literature on the nearby table.

After everyone was seated, mom and my sisters were floored when that same man walked to the podium and said "Good morning, I'm Hal Percell, and ...."


From: Therase Tran (ttranATredheart.com.au)
Subject: Mondegreen

One of my favourite mondegreens came from my five-year daughter, who, while practising her piano, exclaimed, "Please don't extract me" (being "please don't distract me").

Another was "But you said dinner would be ready about now!" when I had actually said "dinner would be ready in about an hour".


From: Bryan Cobb (bkcobbATsgi.com)
Subject: Mondegreen

My favorite mondegreen came from my youngest daughter the first time she heard Elton John's "Tiny Dancer." The lyric in question says "Hold me closer, tiny dancer -- count the headlights on the highway." She asked me why someone would want to "count the head lice on the highway."


From: Tom A. Trottier (tomatrottierAThome.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mondegreen

Little Leroy was at home doing his Math homework. He said to himself, "Two plus five, that son of a bitch is seven. Three plus six, that son of a bitch is nine". In that moment, his mother comes in and hears what he is saying. "Leroy, what are you doing?! Why are you saying that?" Little Leroy answered, "I'm doing my Math homework, Mom". She said, "And is that what your teacher taught you?" He replied, "Yes."

The next day, the mother, worried about the education her son is receiving, goes to Little Leroy's school to talk to the teacher. The mother said to his Math teacher, "I would like to know what you are teaching my son in Math?" The teacher replied, "Right now, we are learning addition problems." Little Leroy's mother asked, "And are you teaching them to say two plus two, that son of a bitch is four?"

When the teacher stopped laughing she replied, "Not at all! What I taught them was two plus two, THE SUM OF WHICH IS four."


From: Irene Silverman (ireneATeasthamptonstar.com)
Subject: and I'm against it

In the '60s, when "the Hamptons" on Long Island were still little-known pastoral villages, my husband and I bought a house in Amagansett, between East Hampton and Montauk. My father couldn't wait to brag to his friends:
"My kids bought a summer house in Amagansett!"
"Why?" asked one man.
"Why? Because they wanted to, that's why."
"No -- I mean, why are you against it?"


From: Jim Burkett (jim_burkettAThp.com)
Subject: mondegreen

I too have heard this word before but, it was on the golf course. After my partner hit an exceptionally good shot from the fairway, he exclaimed, "'m on da green!"


From: Michael Rawdon (rawdonATspies.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 28

> Our local hairdresser was called "Hair Events" - without seeing the written
> form, "Hairy Vents" seemed a pretty unusual name for the business!

Is a deliberate mondegreen a pun? There is (or was) a stylist in Madison, WI named "Hair Eclipse".


From: Rebecca Wilson (rwilson79ATyahoo.com)
Subject: malapropism

Alarmed at what she had learned, my niece told her mother that for certain snake bites there is only one anecdote that can save you.


From: Michael N. Horst, Ph.D. (horst_mnATmercer.edu)
Subject: More stories

I happened to go to Ecuador last week; as I was waiting to check through Customs in the Guayaquil airport, I looked up and noted a police substation up a flight of stairs nearby. Police was printed in large letters on one window of the office. On the other window was the following message printed in large blue letters:

Tourist: If you have been the victim of a crime during your stay in Ecuador, please denounce it here.


From: Kirk Bowles (kirk_bowlesATmindspring.com)
Subject: Mrs. Malaprop

My office manager recently asked me to put my John Thomas on a new contract that had come in. When I responded with a surprised look, she blushed and explained that she had meant for me to sign my John Henry on the line.


From: William Harwood (harwoodWATplante-moran.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--malapropism

After playfully, verbally jabbing my partner the other day, he commented to me, "I respect that comment." In reply I offered, "I am in complete argument with you."

Both comments intentionally substituted similar words to what would normally occur, ie resent and agreement. I don't know if malapropism describes this usage.


From: PK Connor (pkandjuliaATaol.com)
Subject: malapropism

An acquaintance related that her spouse, struck down by a sudden heart attack, was the unsuccessful recipient of artificial insemination.


From: Connie Helbling (cchelblingATearthlink.net)
Subject: malapropism

I still laugh to this day when I recall a friend saying to me, "Don't get your dandruff up." She was a good friend so I tried to clarify what she had just said. She confirmed it, and advised me that she had been saying it for years. We both roared with laughter.


From: Tom Llewellyn (fourellAThcsmail.com)
Subject: AWAD Issue 28

In the talk radio business, we have a frequent caller who wants to prattle on so he can let us hear the sound of his voice. He'll have an opinion on everything, because, as he claims, "I'm multi-fauceted."


From: Mary Garment (marygarmentATearthlink.net)
Subject: malapropisms

An acquainatance, commenting on a picture of John Calvin (who was quite thin): "He's downright emancipated.


From: Kevin Woosley (pumpkinheart3000AThotmail.com)
Subject: A malapropism

While I was studying Church History a number of years back I often was asked, "What cemetery do you attend?" A sub-conscious slip if ever one was.


From: Edward Wardill (wardillATbigfoot.com)
Subject: haplology, or should I say h7y?

The computer industry is famed for its overuse of acronyms, but now seems to be embracing haplology too.

Two terms which are receiving a lot of attention at the moment are internationalization and localization. These relate to the authoring of software in foreign (i.e. non English) locales.

It seems that these words are too much of a mouthful for everyday use in the computer industry. Internationalization is commonly written as "I18N" (pronounced "I eighteen N"), since there are 18 letters between the I and the N. Following a similar logic, localization is written as "L10N" (pronounced "L ten N"). Software that has been internationalized is even said to have been "I18N'd". Who are the proponents of these terms? Look no further than the World Wide Web Consortium, who by following a slightly different logic, have even condensed their acronym to "W3C"!

I0f t2s t3d c7s, t2n w3e w2l w0e b0e? (If this trend continues, then where will we be?)


So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

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