Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mondegreens & False Friends

"Music makes the bored Shah see Auntie rubble," sang Madonna.

"Soya crab the girls and you grab a cuppa malt," sang Justin Timberlake.

"Ham loo I believe I will die," sang Eiffel 65.

Or did they?

Actually, the correct lyrics of their songs are:

"Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel", "So you grab the girls and you grab a couple more" and "I'm blue da bee dee da bee die".

When you mishear a song lyric, a line from a poem or a phrase used in everyday conversation, it's called a mondegreen. It's a funny term coined by American writer Sylvia Wright in 1954, after she misheard a line from a poem: "and Lady Mondegreen" instead of the actual line, "and laid him on the green".

Mondegreens are therefore associated with homophones, or words which sound the same as another word, usually with a completely different meaning. For example, bear (animal) and bare (naked).

Don't be fooled by these false friends (a grammatical term referring to a phrase or word in another language which we try to match with similar sounding words in our own language) – many words in different languages may sound the same and even share identical or related spelling, but they may have completely unrelated meanings.

Bahasa Malaysia (BM) has some amusing false friends for English speakers. A foreign visitor may notice a garage sign announcing "24 Jam" while crossing a busy road to a petrol station. The tourist may be delighted by this news, as he loves jam and fruit preservatives. However, his joy would certainly be short-lived, for instead of finding a selection of 24 different flavours of jam, he would simply find that the petrol station never closes.

False friends played another cruel trick on the frustrated visitor, as jam is BM for "hour" or a word referring to time.

Mondegreens and false friends, they amuse, bemuse and confuse, but don't let them make a fool of you... ;)

Enjoy these videos:

Malia Curry - 'Ken Lee' (Mariah Carey - 'Without You')

Malia Curry - 'Tuts My Barreh' (Mariah Carey - 'Touch My Body')

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