Word Play

I love a clever turn of phrase, and have been known to steal from others and pass them off as my own witticisms. A friend recently named her cat Tacocat simply because the name is a palindrome, which makes the name infinitely better than all of the Socks and Fluffies out there. I love a good pun, and do not adhere to Noah Webster’s famous comment “Punning is a low species of wit.” My enjoyment of course only applies to good puns, and there are many. Issac Asimov loved them and in his Treasury of Humor he dedicated an entire section to them. I first read that book in years ago and stole many a joke from it.


While not word play, mondegreens are another love of mine. If you are not familiar with the term you most likely are with the results. It is when a person mishears a song lyric and singing or repeating the line as they heard it. The one that I have always heard as an example is Jimi Hendrix’s line “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” and is often reinterpreted as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” It does alter the meaning a bit, don’t you agree. There are books and web sites dedicated to this type of misinterpretation, but then I think that most people have their own. I have met people that simple like their version better than the original. Some singers’ vocal styles lend themselves to this type of error, Tom Petty instantly coming to mind. It is not just song lyrics that are misheard but speeches, announcements and interviews. An interesting place to look at some of the more famous and the most recent is http://www.kissthisguy.com/.


Then there are figures of speech and commonly used quotes. This is an area that I had never really given much thought to until recently. My friend Janos forwarded a very interesting article on a well know one, the Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times”  or some variation of that saying. Apparently, much like fortune cookies, it is not of Chinese origin. Apparently the closest that anybody could find was “Crisis is both Danger and Opportunity.” Now I wonder how one transformed from one to the other? I know that in many cases one of the words in a common saying is changed, often to a homophone, which can dramatically alter the meaning. Also sometimes a word or set of words are omitted.  A classic in the second case is the quote “Money is the root of all evil.” The correct quote is “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” In case you are curious that is from the Bible 1 Timothy 6:10.


There is a whole realm of interesting pathways from these topics. What do the lyrics mean? Who really sad this- It always seems that either the Bible or Shakespeare are credited with about 90% of all western quotes. Amy favorites out there? Drop me a line at greg.quick1@gmail.com

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