Friday, 11 May 2007

Fourie's a jolly good fellow, and other mondegreens

My daughter informed me last week that she'd learned a new song called 'Super-Callow-Fragile-Lipstick-Expert-Oh!-Delicious'. This got me thinking about misheard lyrics, words and phrases (or mondegreens).

My best ever comes from my good friend Mark, who thought, as a child, that the oke who lived on the neighbouring farm, a Mr Fourie, was the famous subject of the song, 'Fourie's a jolly good fellow'.

My Significant Other, until he was six, thought that 'this morning' was 'The Smorning'. As in, 'The Smorning, a postman fell off his bicycle'. (And I'm enchanted to hear that 702's news diva, the sainted Katy Katopodis, also says 'The Smorning').

And isn't it embarrassing when you mispronounce a word that you know well, but that you have never heard spoken out loud? Until I was about 17, I thought that 'misled' was pronounced 'mizzled'. I thought 'determined' was pronounced 'detter-minded'. A negligee, to my mind, was a 'niggly-giggly'. And, until my dear friend Muriel told me recently, I thought 'segue' was pronounced 'seeg', like 'league'. (Depressingly, it's pronounced 'seg-way').

Many years ago I worked for a transcription company as an editor, and furiously put my red pen through the words 'villain of the peas'. I changed it to 'villain of the peace', because the subject under discussion was crime. Imagine my mortification when the Afrikaans-speaking chief editor asked snarkily of me, 'Have you never heard the idiom "villain of the piece"?'. My answer was an emphatic 'No!'. In 29 years of being a voracious reader, I'd never seen it, read it, or heard it.

Kids have a lovely original way of pronouncing words. For years, my daughter thought that a 'happy hugger' (a microwaveable hotpack filled with lentils or barley) was called a 'happy bugger'. A hedgehog was a 'Hedge! Hodge!' (with a sharp intake of breath between the words). 'Cafe', to her mind, was 'cathay'.

Most delightful of all, 'nipples' were 'nibbles'.

I've corrected her only because I don't want her to be embarrassed in the future (as I was when, only last year, I pronounced hubris 'hugh-brie', to the assorted sniggers of the assembled company. It's pronounced 'hugh-bris').

I'm not really bothered that much about pronunciation, with two exceptions (please indulge me here). Marshmallows cannot be pronounced 'marsh-mellows'. And please, don't ever say 'mis-chee-vee-us' in my company, or you will die a swift death. 'Miss-cha-viss', please.

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Tracey said...

Not quite mispronunciation, but this from a colleague, which I think is so good it deserves to be an urban legend. 'In a story about a road trip along the West Coast, I
wrote: "From Paternoster, loop around to St Helena...."
The Afrikaans-speaking editor, assuming I'd suddenly switched languages (?), changed loop to "Take a gentle stroll to St Helena..."
Anyone who knows the area, knows there'd be nothing gentle about taking the 25-odd kilometres on foot.

Muriel said...

My sister thought that the Leo Sayer song, 'I feel thunder in my heart' (god, I hope that's right!) went, 'I get hungry in the night.'