30/ Mondegreen

“I had been twenty-six years old before realising that there were, in fact, six senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and dress.” In her chronicle of AdrianMole, Sue Townsend demonstrates a marvellous sense of humour in all its wondrous manifestations from affectionates, satire, and gentle irony, to end-of-pier bawdy, to razor sharp wit. 

One form of humour that I haven’t come across in Sue Townsend’s writings, and of which I am particularly fond, is the mondegreen.  The story of how the mondegreen was discovered is well-known, but it bears repetition.  The term comes from an old song which tells of the fate of the Earl of Moray, “They slew the Earl of Moray and laid him on the green.”  This line of verse was commonly misheard as, “They slew the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen.”  It is the unconscious, plausible dislocation of the mishearing that provides its charming silliness.  A common example comes from the Christmas song, ’Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer’.  In place of “All of the other reindeer”, a companion for Rudolf is imagined, “Olive, the other reindeer”.

When I was young it was the fashion to teach by rote.  At primary school my Math class would chant the times table. The Religion class would chant the Lord’s Prayer.  For a year or so, I believed “Hallowed be Thy name” was properly “Hollowhead be Thy name”.

The form also has been knowingly used by some song writers.  My mother was fond of singing us the nonsensical refrain of an old War time song, ‘Mairzy Doats’.  The stanzas of this lyric are deliberately written as a mondegreen. “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey  A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe.’’  Translated (if you need it !),  Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy, too; wouldn't you?’’  It’s only after all these years that the meaning has been made clear to me.  I think I preferred living in blissful ignorance.

© Benóg Brady Bates














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Comments

  1. I *love* Adrian Mole, but had completely forgotten about those books until now...putting them back on my reading list immediately!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I suspect Adrian Mole was really a secret agent intending to bring about the downfall of Thatcher! Unfortunately, she outlived him.

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  2. Oh my goodness- fascinated to hear the real version of what I understood to be 'Maisy Dotes.' A real
    blast from the past.

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    Replies
    1. ...and to be buried in the future, methinks!

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    2. I tested this out on my 93 year old friend, who knows the song but was completely unaware of its meaning- and now questions whether does really
      do eat oats?

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    3. I believe stags eat oats so does eat oats, don't you?

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