The theme of misunderstood words and lyrics continues to bear fruit and I have a few more to pass on.
Clare Proctor remembered that back in the sweatband clad 1980s, there seemed to be a few pop songs in the charts where references to the male physique were prominent either in the lyrics or in the accompanying dry-ice-laden videos. Olivia Newton-John’s rather saucy example, ‘Physical’, features an abundance of toned Adonises working out, while Diana Ross’ video for her song, ‘Muscles’ was filmed in a similar vein.
It was against this backdrop that Clare writes: “A new Spandau Ballet song came on the radio, and in front of all my staff I groaned, ‘Not another song about muscles!’ …The song? ‘True’. The line? I heard ‘This is the sound of muscles.’ Tony Hadley was actually singing: ‘This is the sound of my soul’!”
Roger Barlow wrote to me saying: “I had a good laugh at ‘Peter God’. It reminded me of my childhood when I asked my mum why her bag was called a ‘ham bag’. ‘Did you used to put ham in it?’ I enquired.”
It seems these instances of misheard phrases have their own particular name. Peter Sotheran wrote: “They are called ‘Mondegreens’ from a common mishearing of a line from the 17th century ballad ‘The Bonnie Earl o’Moray’.”
As Peter explains, the words are often sung like so:
‘Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.’
In fact, the term ‘mondegreen’ came about thanks to American writer Sylvia Wright who had an essay published in Harper’s Magazine in 1954 entitled ‘The Death of Lady Mondegreen’. It was as a child that when singing the ballad, she envisioned the earl dying tragically next to his true love, Lady Mondegreen. In fact, the proper lyric is ‘And layd him on the green’. But Wright preferred her own much more romantic version and, following the publication of her essay, the term began to be used for misheard song lyrics that change the intended meaning of the original.
Peter also mentions another fairly well-known mondegreen, that of ‘Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.’ Many a child would believe the pious bear featured in the hymn ‘Keep Thou My Way’, whereas the actual line is ‘Gladly the cross I’ll bear’.
In 2015, the Independent newspaper asked for people to send in their favourite mondegreens, and they included ‘The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind’ (The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind’, Bob Dylan), ‘All the whiskey in the sea’ (‘All that’s missing is the sea’, Club Tropicana, by Wham) and the obvious ‘I don’t know why we had a divorce; we’d roll and fall in brie’ (‘Out on the wiley, windy moors, we’d roll and fall in green’, Wuthering Heights, by Kate bush).
I’m sure you have your own, and please do keep em’ coming. They don’t half make me chuckle! Some of you might also be able to help with a query from another reader. Ian Atkinson contacted me after having read my column about the quirky farm names near Husthwaite. Ian’s wife Linda was brought up on a farm with the name ‘Banniscue’. Ian says: “Nobody has ever been able to shed any light on its origins, so I wonder if your readers might.”
I did a bit of research myself, and found that Banniscue is the area in Ryedale between Hawnby Hill and Easterside Hill, near Rievaulx. There used to be three farms, High Banniscue, Low Banniscue and Little Banniscue, all situated around Banniscue Wood, but only High Banniscue exists now. I couldn’t find any clues as to how it got its name, and wondered if there was any influence from the Viking language. I found a few Old Norse words that may or may not be connected. ‘Banna’ means ‘to forbid’, while ‘bana’ means ‘to kill’, and ‘bani’ means ‘a cause of death’, or ‘slayer’. It could also be influenced by Old Brittonic, where ‘benn’ means peak and ‘isca’ means ‘water’, so perhaps the word refers to its location overlooking a nearby beck?
I’d be intrigued to know where this farm name comes from and whether anyone can shed light on its origins. Contact this paper by letter or email, or use the contact page at www.countrymansdaughter.com
Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 15th October and the Gazette & Herald on 13th October 2021