Jul 17, 2008

The Ants Are My Friends

Do you remember these wacky words from earlier posts?

• paronamasia   • Feghoots   • shaggy dogs  
• Spoonerisms   • haplology

My dad mailed a comic strip to me called "One Big Happy," by Rick Detorie, which illustrates a great example of Feghoots and shaggy dogs. It could have been written about my dad: okay, and maybe about me, too. Here's the dialog...

MOM: Oh, your father!
SON: What now?
MOM: We were at Moe Larkin's funeral and, of course, Marge and Tina were there. Well, your father began singing...
DAD: Nobody could hear me.
MOM: I could, and it wasn't funny!
DAD: [Breaking into song.] Don't cry for Moe, Marge and Tina...

Have you done this?

Neologism is a term for new words that have been added to our language due to trends, patterns, and/or necessity. A mondegreen is a prime example. Author Gavin Edwards has written several books on the subject. He explains the origin of a mondegreen in an online article titled, "Mondegreens: A Short Guide."

He writes: "The term 'mondegreen' was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines 'They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.' As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn't realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: 'They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.'"

Mondegreens occur more frequently with lyrics. Singers like Frank Sinatra were rarely misheard because of clear enunciation. However, the advent of Rock and Roll ushered in a more relaxed era of singing. Jimi Hendrix sang, "excuse me while I kiss the sky," and many misheard it as "excuse me while I kiss this guy."

Contrary to the title of this post, ants are not my friends (especially when they turn up uninvited in my pantry). Nevertheless, people have unwittingly sung their praises by replacing "The answer my friends, is blowin' in the wind," with "The ants are my friends..." Or, have you ever hear the old hymn, "Gladly The Cross I'd Bear," referred to as "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear"? These are pure mondegreens.

More on Mondegreens:


  1. I love goofy things like daughter "Miss Priss" and I always crack UP over things "I hear" in songs...that aren't really there.
    She does the same thing though when listening to "old" music and then I get to laugh at her. about "Rock the CASHBOX" instead of "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash?

  2. I love this post. And, I think we have all fallen victim to an occasional mondegreen.

  3. Good really good post. I too hear these in songs....Have a great weekend.....mary


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♫ Karen