Ah, yes. That great line from the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Bad Moon Rising. Or not. The line is actually “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” but it has been widely mis-heard as There’s a bathroom on the right. That’s a mondegreen. We all have lines from songs or poems or whatever that we mis-heard the first time and never noticed that we had it wrong. As a child I used to sing Away in the Manger in church, bellowing out “…the little Lord Jesus asleep on his head.”
Mondegreens are words or phrases that result from mis-hearing or misinterpreting a statement or song lyric. Another well-known mondegreen is “Scuse me while I kiss this guy (from a lyric in the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze: “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”). Or: “Olive the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names…” and “The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind…” One of the all-time great mondegreens is the song, “Mairzy Doats,” — the whole song is a mondegreen.
Nowadays there is a new generation of mondegreens that might just have to have a name of their own. I’m talking about the words that are ‘mis-heard’ by speech recognition programs on computers. There is an hilarious YouTube video in which two guys (Rhett and Link) spoke the lyrics of christmas carols to the YouTube speech gizmo and then read back what was written out for them–sung it actually–as the speech conversion program interpreted it. Check it out. There are a number of similar videos on YouTube. The name for them there seems to be Caption Fails.
I sometimes use the speech-to-text function on my iPad at night when I have ideas for a blog in the wee hours. I only have to roll over and touch the iPad and it lights up, whereupon I simply touch the speech icon to record whatever my thoughts are without having to turn on the light or focus my eyes. The next morning it is all there for me, written out. It’s usually fairly accurate, but my diction must be a bit sloppy or slurred in the wee hours as it can sometimes be a bit… comical. Recently, when dictating notes in the middle of the night for an article on climate deniers, I stated that without scientific credibility spokespeople generally sound like a goose. I said “goose” but the voice-to-text translator wrote douche. I’m thinking this might be a useful editor as well as a dictation tool. MM