Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

A Tale of … The Mondegreen Rabbit Hole

What is your goto treat?

Polly’s is ice cream sandwiches. Once Henry discovered that, he was in like Flynn.

Errol Flynn - dems some smoldering good likes right dere!
Errol Flynn – dems some smoldering good likes right dere!

Sidenote: I just had to look up the origins of that phrase – in like Flynn. Oh my! What in the world? I had no idea. It means to have easily achieved a goal … well, according to legend, this has to do with Errol Flynn’s notorious womanizing tactics and successes … uh, okay. The man was gorgeous; I get it, but whoa.

Another possibility was that it referred to a NYC political boss whose candidates that he backed were a sure thing because of his power.

However, if you use the phrase “In like Flint,” that’s a malapropism – it’s not the original phrase, but the James Coburn movie’s title was a play on “In like Flynn.”

Malapropism? That is a “usually humorous misapplication of a word or phrase” (Merriam-Webster).  The word malapropism comes from a character named Mrs. Malaprop in a play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Before he introduced her in 1775, Shakespeare’s character named Dogberry from “Much Ado About Nothing” made those errors and they were then called dogberryisms.

Some of Mrs. Malaprop’s best phrases were things like: he is the very pineapple of politeness (pinnacle), she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile (alligator), it gives me the hydrostatics to such a degree (hysterics).

A quick link to a different page and I discovered celebrity malapropisms.

“Listen to the blabbing brook.” (babbling) Norm Crosby

“We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile.” (hostage) George W. Bush

“The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.” (order) Richard Daley, former Chicago mayor

Yogi Berra was a master of malapropisms: “Texas has a lot of electrical votes.” (electoral)

And if this weren’t enough insanity, there is another type of malapropism called a mondegreen (sigh, more information). A mondegreen comes from something being misheard. For those of us who grew up with 60s and 70s music, we created a bunch of them.

“There’s a bathroom on the right” rather than “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” (CCR)

“Bring me an iron lung” instead of “Bring me a higher love.” (Steve Winwood)

“The girl with colitis goes by” (seriously?) instead of “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.” (Beatles)

“Excuse me while I kiss this guy” rather than “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” (Jimi Hendrix)

“Midnight after you’re wasted” instead of “Midnight at the oasis.” (Maria Muldaur)

And where does the word mondegreen come from? (Why not, I’ve flown down the rabbit hole with both eyes open.)

The author, Sylvia Wright, heard a Scottish ballad called “The Bonny Earl of Murray” as

Ye highlands and ye lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual lyric reads:
…Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
and laid him on the green.

My favorite will always be the story (whether legendary or true) of the little boy who returned home after attending Sunday School all excited because they’d talked about bears that day. When his mother pressed for more information, he told the story of “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.”

That was a fun trip in and amongst words, phrases and all of the craziness that goes with them. I guess I’ll write about ice cream and treats another day. Back to work for me, now.



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