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Posted by James Briggs on June 18, 2001

There has been recent correspondence in the Times about "Mondegreens". I thought that I would share some of it with you.

Firstly, I hear some of you say, 'What is a Mondegreen?' Well, it's that situation where the listener hears one thing, but the speaker has said something different. It comes from the line of a poem where the words are: "They ha'slain the Earl o'Moray and laid him on the green", but these are misheard as: "They have slain the Earl o'Moray and Lady Mondegreen."

Here are some of the examples published in the Times:

I am grateful to Mr Anthony Baker (letter, June 5) for his enlightenment on the nature of a mondegreen. I had laboured for many years under the illusion that the correct term was a "Gladly".
This derived from my childhood memory of singing in Sunday School a hymn with the line "Gladly, my cross-eyed bear".

When I was a child my father was watching me and my friends learning a folk dance to the tune "A Merry Conceit". On asking the name of the music, he was bemused to hear it was "American Seat". I still can't hear the difference.

As a civil servant in the 1950s I heard of an official who received a memo from his boss's secretary inviting him to attend a "haddock-stirring committee" .
The puzzled official's superior had dictated "ad hoc steering committee".

I was once majestically written to by a colleague as James Hay, "Solicitor and not a republic". It caused some amusement in the office.
Yours faithfully, JAMES N.D. HAY (Solicitor and notary public)

Recently my local newspaper small ads carried, in the pets column an advertisement for a "box of puppies". I puzzled over this until it dawned on me that it should have been "boxer puppies".

Some years ago, a Scottish friend of my mother mentioned casually to her that the Countess of Ayr was coming for tea the following day.
It turned out to be the county surveyor .

I hope you enjoy these!

James B