The Predicate


< May 2006 >

Monday, 29.05.06

Mondegreens in a language other than English

Anoop Sarkar, whose blog I follow for his insightful book reviews, is wondering about Mondegreens in languages other than English. He writes:

The only lists of examples I have seen of Mondegreens have been in English. Surely songs in other languages can have lyrics that are commonly misheard. But a cursory web search yielded no such lists in any other language. A note of clarification: I define mondegreens in stricter sense than the definition in wikipedia, which I think is too broad. I consider it to be a mondegreen if it is in the original language itself (i.e. not because of a bad translation) and if it occurs in song lyrics (i.e. no speech recognition or closed captioning errors).

Surely, such a list can be generated in Tamil, for e.g. I will mention a couple from the top of my head.

First, a popular song, goes like this: "Thaaye Yasodha, undhan aayar kulaththudhitha" - "Mother Yashoda, in your Yadava clan (was born Krishna)". Instead, people used to sing it as "Thaaye Yasodha, undhan naayar kulaththudhiththa", making it mean "Mother Yasodha, in your Nayar clan (was born Krishna)". Suddenly, Krishna is recast from a Yadava boy somewhere in the west, to a Nayar (Nair) boy in Kerala!

The second one is more personal. This one is a carnatic song in Tamil, set in raga Abhogi that I’ve heard for ages, and didn’t realize that I was not hearing the correct lyrics, till very recently! It goes like this:
Sabapathikku vEru dheivam samaanamaagumaa
Sabapathikku vEru dheivam samaanamaagumaa
This line poses a qn: Will there be another god like Sabapathy?
Then, a quick "illai" (meaning "No" ) and then the first line again.
So, I always thought the meaning was:
Will there be another god like Sabapathy? No... Will there be another god like Sabapathy? No...

Turns out, the quick word in the middle was not "illai", but "thillai" (meaning Chidambaram - the temple where God Sabapathy - Siva - is).
So, it was actually: Will there be another god like Sabapathy? Will there be another god like Sabapathy of Chidambaram?

I am sure there are more Mondegreens in other languages as well. If you know any, please post in this thread.

- Balaji Srinivasan.


Cinema Virumbi writes:

Politician/ Literary speaker Kumari Ananthan once said:

In the Southern districts, a proverb is common: 'KuruvikkEththa raamEswaram'. Most people use it similar to ' EzhaikkEththa eLLuruNdai' meaning, something (like a laddu made of sesame seeds!) a poor man buys or uses because that is the only thing within his reach! But the proverb is a time - distorted, Mondegreen version of the original: 'kuRi vaikka ERRa Raama saram' i.e. Rama's arrow which is fit to target (any enemy)! (I agree , this phrase , in itself, doesn't qualify as a proverb (unlike the Mondegreen version), as it only says Rama's arrow is great and nothing more!!!!!)

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