Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 12th 2013 Contents B32
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, December 12, 2013
Darius Rucker, left, and Sheryl Crow perform at the American Country Awards at the Mandalay Bay Resort
& Casino on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. AP PHOTO
AMERICAN COUNTRY AWARDS
Milk and spiders? Nine lazy Han-
sons? Sleep in heavenly peas?
It s that time of year: holiday music
time. And with holiday music comes
all the strange and twisted things we
sometimes think we re hearing.
Mondegreens, the moniker for mis-
heard words in song, aren t restricted
to holiday standards, of course, but the
old-timey language of some seems to
serve as a botched-lyric magnet.
Lest you think funny turns on song
lyrics are the stuff of childhoods, Missy
O Reilly knows otherwise. She s an
actress, comedian and co-owner of
Planet Rose, a karaoke haven on Man-
hattan s Lower East Side.
"I m the biggest Christmas nerd, so
I m always encouraging people to sing
Christmas music," she said.
"Some people are really
they see what the
real words are."
for handy exam-
ples submitted by
readers of the
Web site that
myths, rumours and
misinformation. Noting that monde-
greens aren t parody, but words we
actually think we re listening to,
Snopes keeps a list of holiday gems.
For The Twelve Days of Christ-
mas, there s Ten lawyers
leaving and Nine lazy Han-
sons. Later we ve got Six geezers laying,
along with "a paltry tin-affair tree."
Those are in lieu of lords a-leaping,
ladies dancing, geese a-laying and the
obligatory partridge in a pear tree, fyi.
If ever you ve made it to the fourth
verse of Winter Wonderland, you ll be
relieved to know it doesn t include "Later
on milk and spiders, as we dream by
the fire," but rather: "Later on we ll con-
spire ..." And that snowman you may
or may not build in the meadow? You
should pretend he s "Parson Brown,"
not "sparse and brown," or "parched
and brown." Just sayin .
There are most definitely no "peas"
in "Silent Night," but "heavenly peace."
In "Santa Claus Is Comin to Town,"
the big guy in red does this: "making
a list, checkin it twice." Not this: "mak-
ing a list, of chicken and rice."
Sometimes, O Reilly said, an entire
holiday song is one big what?! She was
thinking of the haunting yet beautiful
---to the ears of some critics---Fairytale
of New York, co-written by Shane Mac-
Gowen of the Celtic punk group The
An Irish immigrant recalling a Christ-
mas Eve stay in a New York City drunk
tank tells of an inebriated older cellmate
whose rendition of a traditional ballad
spins the thickly brogued narrator (Mac-
Gowen) into a raunchy imagining of a
debauched life with the old ditty s female
"It s a beautiful, beautiful song but
people are always confused by what the
words are," O Reilly said. "It s really hard
to decipher the words."
Not to get all wonky, but the song
isn t really a mondegreen. Grant Barrett,
co-host of the public radio show on
language, A Way with Words, defines
mondegreens this way, explaining they
can happen for poetry and other spoken
language as well:
"You re mishearing where one word
ends and another word begins. This is
called misdivision. And sometimes
you re mishearing a word itself. It sounds
like another word to you, and so you
try to match that sound up with a word
that you already know that kind of fits
into the plot, if there is one. And that s
called reanalysis," he said.
Don t mind him. He s a lexicographer,
and he claims he has no mondegreens
of his own.
"I misremember," said Bar-
rett, in San Diego. "That s dif-
ferent. I always joke that I
know the first ten per cent
of thousands of songs
and that s it."
The word monde-
green, he said, can be
traced to Sylvia Wright
and a column she wrote
in Harper s Magazine
in 1954 titled, The
Death of Lady Mon-
degreen. Wright dis-
covered that for years she
had botched the last line
of the first stanza of the
Scottish folk ballad The Bon-
nie Earl o Moray.
How it goes, with
spellings based on
updates of antiquated English: "They
have slain the Earl of Moray, and laid
him on the green."
What she heard: "They have slain
the Earl of Moray, and Lady Monde-
Babes are little mondegreen machines.
Paula Werne, who works at a holiday
theme park in Santa Claus, Ind, had
one in her son, John, who is now 22.
As a tot at three he took to singing
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas to his stuffed
animals out of a Christmas songbook,
mom said. Only he turned "Christmas
Eve is coming soon; now you dear old
man," into "dirty old man."
Them s fightin words in Werne s
town, but she and her husband let it
go. "It was too cute and he was so happy
that he knew all the words," Werne said.
"By the next year, he d figured it out.
I still sing it that way, though."
Russell Rabut doesn t have any mon-
degreens, but he is one.
The 22-year-old senior at San Diego
State University, majoring in---what else,
English---plays rhythm guitar in a band
called The Mondegreens.
He took the name to his band mates,
all high school friends from Chico, Cal-
ifornia, after a fellow student in a creative
writing class mentioned it.
"I had never heard of it before. It s
a very beautiful word and it s cool how
it came to exist," he said. "It just seems
like such an eloquent irony, that existing
art can spin something poetic by acci-
Santa's not making a
list of 'chicken and rice'
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