Tag Archives: humor

Mark Twain on the German Language

Mark Twain traveled extensively, in the United States, in Europe, and in the Middle East. He was quite critical of the way the German language is constructed. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, he wrote the following:

She had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.

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The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

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That’s the title of a little book I picked up the other day. It contains quotations on various topics, this one on writers. Twain had been introduced to an audience as “one of the world’s greatest authors,” and this was his response:

I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spenser is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I’m not feeling very well myself.

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We Now Turn to Malaprops

Following in the awkward steps of Mondegreens and Spoonerisms, we meet Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan’s play of 1775, The Rivals. That unfortunate woman had a strong tendency to use words that sounded quite similar to the words that were actually called for. For some more recent examples of malaprops, enjoy the following:

The magazine New Scientist claims an employee referred to a colleague as “a suppository (repository) of knowledge.”

In Huckleberry Finn, Aunt Sally declares, “I was most putrified (petrified) with astonishment.”

The late mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, called a tandem bicycle a tantrum bicycle.

Basketball player Drew Gooden remarked, “I’ve had to overcome a lot of diversity (adversity).”

And Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees could always be counted on for a startling turn of phrase. Of another player he said, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious (ambidextrous).”

 

 

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Spoonerisms

 

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Frigate bird, Galapagos  © Judi Birnberg

Now that you know what a mondegreen is, we can turn to spoonerisms, named for the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930). Apparently, he was prone to transposing the initial consonants of two words to such an extent that his mistakes came to be named after him.

Can’t you picture him officiating at a wedding and telling the groom, “It is now kisstomary to cuss the bride”?

In England, a popular dish is chish and fips. You might want a few belly jeans for dessert. And George W. Bush, known for his verbal gaffes, once declared, “If the the terriers and bariffs are torn down, the economy will grow.”

Maybe Rev. Spooner would have recognized my illustration as a brigate fird.

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What In the World is a Mondegreen?

 

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©  Almost Spring           Judi Birnberg

For my next few posts, I’m going to entertain you with spoonerisms, eggcorns, malaprops, and mondegreens. In fact, I wrote this particular post almost three years ago, and you may not have been a reader then or may have forgotten what a mondegreen is. They tickle me no end.

Have you ever discovered lyrics that were not what you originally thought you heard? You misinterpret a phrase that sounds very similar to the real deal, but your interpretation gives it a new meaning, one that may raise eyebrows. That, dear readers, is a mondegreen.

The name was coined in 1954 by author Sylvia Wright, who misheard the lyrics of an old Scottish ballad; she thought these were the words:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

In fact, the last line is And laid him on the green.

Here are some other mondegreens:

the girl with colitis goes by (the girl with kaleidoscope eyes, from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”)

There’s a bathroom on the right (There’s a bad moon on the rise, from “Bad Moon Rising”)

Surely, good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life. A more common reading of the 23rd Psalm includes the line, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

When I was very young, a popular singer named Patti Page recorded a song called “Cross Over the Bridge.” It contains the line, Leave your fickle past behind you, and true romance will find you…. I was just discovering love songs on the radio and had no idea what “fickle” meant. To my ears, Patti Page was singing, Leave your pickle pats behind you….

I still wonder what pickle pats had to do with true romance. And what are pickle pats, anyway? Send me your own mondegreens, please! I bet you all have at least one.

 

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Vivid Headlines

My Florida friend Cami sent me these headlines, as shown in newspapers. I have fiddled around with the images and am not sufficiently tech savvy to be able to show you those pages. I am able to copy the headlines for your entertainment. I’m fairly certain several were written intentionally and somehow got past the newspapers’ censors. Here we go:

Rangers get whiff of Colon

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Barbershop singers bring joy to school for deaf

Miracle cure kills fifth patient

Bridges help people cross rivers

Girls’ schools still offering “something special”—Head

Still unsure why the sewer smells

17 remain dead in morgue shooting spree

Starvation can lead to health hazards

Man Accused of Killing Lawyer Receives a New Attorney

Parents keep kids home to protest school closure

Hospitals resort to hiring doctors

Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Total lunar eclipse will be broadcast live on Northwoods Public Radio

Diana was still alive hours before she died

Meeting on open meetings is closed

Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike says

Republicans turned off by size of Obama’s package

New sick policy requires 2-day notice

Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs

Study Shows Frequent Sex Enhances Pregnancy Chances

Marijuana issue sent to a joint committee

Worker suffers leg pain after crane drops 800-pound ball on his head

Thank you, Cami!

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Puns Galore

My friend Kathy, another word lover, sent me this list, which I hope you will enjoy. Apparently, an annual contest is held to find the best puns. (Who decides? Members of Punsters Unlimited?)

 

This year’s winning submission is posted at the very end.

 

 

When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

 

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

 

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

 

The batteries were given out free of charge.

 

.. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

 

A will is a dead giveaway.

 

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

 

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

 

When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

 

Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

 

Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

 

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

 

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

 

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

 

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

 

When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

 

Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

 

 

    And the cream of the twisted crop:

 

Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

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