Why is the little girl in this picture having so many bad days? I wondered that many times while painting this illustration for the children’s book The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! that I’d just written. Maybe one of those days was ruined, after signal miscommunications on whether to stay on second base or run to third base had lost the game? Looking for reasons as to why people have bad days, I tumbled into a rabbit hole and soon discovered a word that I hadn’t heard before. The word is mondegreen. It means a word or phrase that has been misheard.
You’ve used mondegreens if you ever sang the children’s song that goes like this, “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey a kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?” Or if you ever played the game Telephone, where you gathered with others in a circle and tried to successfully send the same message through everyone, one at a time. If someone didn’t hear what was whispered, they had to continue with what they think they heard. All too often, when that last person announced to the entire group what they just heard, it was only a shadow of the original message.
Miscommunication also happens when we use speech recognition and spellcheck. And typos have been around since the invention of the printing press. Not too many years ago. I was planning a family vacation with three sisters and my mom. Emails were flying back and forth while we worked out schedules. I had listed vacation spots and sent them off to everyone. Moments later, came a reply. My sister said, “Buce job!” Well, after investigating to find the meaning of buce, I suddenly had to laugh! For I’d realized on that first word, my sister’s right hand had simply shifted one key to the left!
Life is full of miscommunications and mondegreens. Unfortunately, not all are as easy to fix as a simple typo or speech recognition error on your phone. Nor are they as funny as singing the wrong words to a popular song. Sometimes they wreak havoc for days, months, or longer. The way I look at it, these debacles teach me something or at least they give me a good laugh! And if I’m lucky, I get both! Don’t you just wish all life’s debacles could be innocent, harmless, and funny?
If you’ve ever had a humorous mondegreen or misunderstanding, please send a short description in the comments. I’d enjoy hearing from you. The Unbelievable Topsy Turvy Day! is for sale online at www.leannembenson.com
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