You know the characteristic human fetish in seeing things exactly as how they would like to? That dwelling in a certain exalted sense of superiority in doing what they want to vs what is required, at least in the entertaining aspects of life, of experiencing relaxation wash over their beings and selves as something they are entitled to, we have been conditioned to be ourselves at all times. And so we proceed to do ourselves up along that line of thought, sticking by our assumptions and beliefs and convictions as well, to eke out exactly such circumstances that affirms our (superficial though) sense of esteemed existence.
This though isn’t always a bad thing, as what has turned out to be the case in at least a specific some exploration of the literary kind. Even when it isn’t so exclusively a case of the poesy as it is a greater governance in art, this phenomenon of rather interesting emergence and explanation and etymology as well functions also as effectively as a literary device in the stylistic kind of its working. And style for sure is vital to what makes mondegreens out of nowhere, typically out of songs and dialogues and poems and stuff that reside in a certain rhythm and tone and manner of their utterance paving the way for mishearings and misinterpretations to follow very efficiently on their trail as almost second nature of their creative character.
The name itself is striking and so is the origin of it as the fun to utter mondegreen, being itself also as much a mondegreen as the many others that it alludes to, with its nomenclature boasting not of any sense in its as non systematic deriving. It instead is the as improperly asserted arrangement of terms and words and phrases that it leads to in description that sums up also the very premise of its own definition as a mondegreen.
Finding first expression in the lexicon of American writer Sylvia Wright’s own encounter with this very universal phenomenon that took after its populariser’s childhood account with a certain Lady Mondegreen. Only that this ‘Lady’ did not exist for real, nor even in the unreal world of the fictional, but instead inhabited the mind- and ears of a young Wright who for some reason interpreted audibly the words “layd him on the green” as Lady Mondegreen upon her mother’s every recitation of the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray. And thus Lady Mondegreen indeed came to be- then, in her imagination and several years later in 1954 as a word describing the phenomenon that had so remarkably marked the early years of Wright so as for her to later emerge as the one who would coin the term representing this very fascinating fallacy in language.
From a non existent character in a singing symphony to an all engulfing assertion in both unintended and deliberate amusement, Lady Mondegreen has indeed come a long way over the course of almost a century in her existence even when unpublicised, shedding though her ladylike image over the years to assume a more cosmopolitan identity- one that all and sundry builds upon their own personal capacity to contribute to an always expanding compendium of things intriguingly eccentric. Which leads us to the very ordinary yet captivating still essence of what mondegreens are by their very definition- a misheard or misinterpreted phase of the listener of a poem or a song who fills in their own encounter in ambiguity as concerns the lyrics or wordings or what is being heard with something a ‘close substitute’ indeed of the unclear. And with such conviction that it occurs to them as the original or actual version of it even when their wronging has been veritably established, and continues to mark their rendition of that specific piece of art perhaps for eternity.
This conviction marks the very premise for the so often occurring phenomenon of the mondegreen that more often than not comes to rest in an assurance of being somewhat similar in utterance and close in meaning to what has been spaced out in no such intention of it. Deliberate mondegreens tend to be not less effective as well though, manifesting therefore also this error of hearing as something very witty in inducing the desired effect. Unlike certain occurrences in wrongness that rack up the entire credibility of what is being delivered, mondegreens persist more or less as some sort of a sensical prevalence, even when it might not accrue exactly in specific notation of what was intended.
That leads us to decipher the science dwelling in such explorations of the unreal in the arts, as something derived out of psychological as well as literary reasonings. There’s a scheme working really in guiding the definite occurrence of mondegreens as this very captivating whatever that they are, and one that despite its finding resonance along the grounds in fallacy tends to arise instead out of very valid reasons. And this explains as well why a mondegreen typically would strive to make at least some sense, of course not always as had been the case with Wright’s ‘pathbreaking’ mishearing of a ladylike Mondegreen assuming that definitive identity spurring an entire span of interest altogether.
Everything from the characteristic residing in rhythm of the verse to the way and manner of its enunciation, as well as the speed and flow of telling, and of course the accent and pitch in utterance- all can create circumstances conducive for mondegreens to take over, either individually or in collectiveness as well. As far as the psychological ground for such creeping in of wordy discrepancies is concerned, it can be a working of the confirmation bias arising from the human instinct to stick to what they believe is true that can be a factor. Associated might also be the notion of cognitive dissonance that leads us humans to fill in the gap of personal incomprehensibility with related, similar or analogous words and more accurately strings of letters to counter that unease and discomfort- queasiness even- arising from a knowledge of the unknown.
Notwithstanding though such concentrated attempts by the human brain to make sense out of things in whatever way in can, and not very ridiculously as well, mondegreens can be more simply attributed to the rampant existence of homophones in language, particularly of the English alphabet though regional representations of it tend to be as easily encountered. With misunderstandings therefore finding so wide a scope to mar the essence of what is being intended, and yet not going on to unleash such havoc of completely unintended references, it is only natural that the identity of the mondegreen would go on to grow and evolve and expand to extents that gets only as interesting as it can.
That aspect of our ability in perceiving and comprehending and interpreting words sure work in just about every sphere of their expression but they need to be reinstated all the more in songs and poems that necessarily reside in a certain character of line and length in pattern, both of the length and the rhythm of the construction. And mondegreens somehow help preserve this technique in what lends poetry and songs and such things essentially musical in the flow of their nature that vibe in capturing attention. Even when foreign words are introduced into completing the scheme of affairs in rounding up the cumulative meaning of the piece, the rhythm and ‘beat’ and pattern and resonance as well in which it reverberates.
Mondegreens therefore are not so much a glaring error as it is a convenient reconstructing of whatever it is that is concerned, and yet in a manner that does not end up altering the structure and style of the composition. Letting the essence of the verse rule while making scope for a sometimes humorous, other times ‘ordinary’ narrative to flow, mondegreens indeed make for a diverse- if not enhanced experience in the rhythmic nature of recitings.
Of course not everything working out along that identifying way of amusement making up the mondegreen assertion as a phenomenon as well as in name has to be always accurate or hover somewhere along the semblances of sense. Very erroneous, utterly nonsensical and nonexistent even words might be well harbouring of the mondegreen character in occurrence, like what had been the case in its not at all basic naming. At the same time, mondegreens also aren’t the only such phenomenon that frequently find unfurling as an error- of whatever degree and extent that might be though- within the realm of what is heard. Numerous such similar and related concepts exist as well that mark the entire ambits of literature and music most prominently but seldom do they tend to be as ‘versatile’ a rendition as what the mondegreen mention stands for.
What makes mondegreens rest in this distinction of diversity alludes to the fore across which they manifest. Because while the very basis and origin of mondegreens might be genuine cases in misinterpretation, that is not by any means the sole realm of its working. Particularly with the two specific ‘types’ of what occur as deliberate mondegreen and reverse mondegreen, the play of the quirks is as apparent and equally adept in their abilities in amusing.
Deliberate mondegreens tend to be more ‘lucid’ in their literal play, but more amalgamative a concept as well that encompasses within itself the context of such works that possesses different meanings in different languages or even such devising of words and phrases that cleverly conceal within them a different meaning, as double meaning occurrences therefore that are so often a ploy of both written and verbal encounters in artistic as well as ordinary accounts. Sometimes really obscure while at other times revealing the true sense in uttering as opposed to the baseless existence of them in writing, a deliberate mondegreen is an oft employed technique of creative writing that helps maintain the interest of the reader while also successfully delivering such dialogues in both the actual and intended meaning of them.
Reverse mondegreens are more fun a way that adheres therefore more to the entertaining aspect of the arts as against the truly artistic expression of them. Written such that defy well sounded meaning in their gibberish appearance in the form of words are such phrases that through clever applying of one’s faculties in deduction can very evidently eke out the real meaning of them. Challenging almost of the reader’s abilities and reasonings in this case is how reverse mondegreens acquire for themselves that character universally fluent in racking the brains. And that’s what mondegreens have always been- stimulating the human brain in presenting a prospect in such potential that does not defy logic as much as they seem to in their ‘contorted’ context.
Be it the so practical ‘There’s a bathroom on the right’ substituting out the ‘There’s a bad moon on the rise’ in Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival or the more realistic ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy’ stepping in to set aside the rather dreamy ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky’ in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, not to forget of course the very Lady Mondegreen who started it all courtesy humor writer Sylvia Wright, and numerous such recurring as well as newely emerging references to this end, this musing upon the meaningful meaninglessness of the mondegreen is indeed a manifestation in maverickness.