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AP Gets to the Bottom of Christmas Song Mondegreens

Any AP story that requires interviews with the co-owner of an East Village karaoke bar and the co-host of a public radio show about the English language is absolutely fine by our Christmas carol songbook.

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The delightful item, by entertainment and lifestyles reporter Leanne Italie, is all about “mondegreens,” a term used to describe the usually very funny instances of people mishearing song lyrics like “9 Ladies Dancing” (from “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) as “9 Lazy Hansons.” Grant Barrett, of the aforementioned radio program A Way With Words, explains how the term originated:

The word, he said, can be traced to Sylvia Wright and a column she wrote in Harper’s magazine in 1954 titled, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen.” Wright discovered that for years she had botched the last line of the first stanza of the Scottish folk ballad “The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray.”

How it goes, with spellings based on updates of antiquated English: “They have slain the Earl of Moray, and laid him on the green.”

What she heard: “They have slain the Earl of Moray, and Lady Mondegreen.”

Planet Rose co-owner Missy O’Reilly says one of the Christmas songs that consistently surprises her karaoke customers when the words start scrolling is “Fairytale of New York,” co-written by Shane MacGowen of The Pogues. AP writer Italie even tracked down a member of a band named after the Harper’s-originated term. Read the rest of her piece here.

P.S. Anyone who is recommended to check out FishbowlNY thinking they’re going to land on FishbowlNewark will be sorely disappointed. We only occasionally cover matters pertaining to Jersey.

[Image courtesy: planetrosenyc.com]

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