Thursday, August 25, 2016



The word mondegreen was coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954, meaning a series of words that result in the mis-hearing or misinterpretation of song lyrics, popular phrases or poetry.
Wright coined the word mondegreen after the imagined Lady Mondegreen, born of a line in Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl o’ Moray” which reads Laid him on the green.

Another example might be mis-hearing Jimi Hendrix’s line from "Purple Haze", Excuse me while I kiss the sky, to be, Accuse me while I kiss the guy.

Below are some mondegreens. Read each one with the intent of discovering the original phrase or lyrics that led to this misunderstanding.

A. I led the pigeons to the flag
B. The ants are my friends, blowing in the wind
C. America, America, God is Chef Boyardee
D. There’s a bathroom on the right
E. The bright blessed day & the dog said goodnight
F. The girl with colitis goes by
G. She’s got a chicken to ride OR she’s got a tic in her eye
H. Rocket Man, burning all the trees off every lawn

Now check the comments section to see how you did & to make any comments you might be inspired to make.

Big thanks to friend Aaron Keating, for suggesting this week’s topic, & thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, About Education, University of Houston, & Merriam-Webster.

Thursday, August 18, 2016



Though we spell it meat, in Old English it was spelled mete & meant simply, food.  It came from a Proto-Indo-European mad-, meaning moist or wet. This same root turned into an Irish word meaning pig, a German word meaning sausage, two Sanskrit words (a noun meaning fat, & a verb meaning bubbling), plus a Latin adjective meaning drunk.

It wasn’t until 1300 that meat (or mete as it was spelled at the time) moved from meaning food to the more specialized meaning, edible flesh. In the next century or so, vegetables could be referred to in English as grene-mete.

It appears those prudish Victorians coined the term white meat, so that while discussing their meal, diners wouldn’t have to use racy terms like breast. The euphemism dark meat helped Victorians avoid equally racy terms like leg & thigh.

Some of meat’s etymological moments include:

meatloaf – (main course of ground meat, breadcrumbs & seasonings) 1876
meat market – (a place one looks for sex partners) 1896
meat – (the essential part) 1910
meat-hooks – (fingers, hands or arms) 1919
meat wagon – (ambulance) 1920
like a blind dog in a meat market – (out of control) 1928
dead meat – (someone with no hope of surviving) 1948
meat grinder – (mill for grinding meat) 1951

And, of course, there are any number of meat idioms referring to sexual parts.

All starting with mad-


Please leave any meaty thoughts in the comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Our Lady of the Garbage

Our Lady of the Garbage

A photo by friend & fellow blogger, Kevin Keelan inspired this post. Kevin’s essays, poems, photographs & the occasional rant can be found at KPKWorld – The Last Creative Iconoclast.

The photo inspires a lot of thoughts. The thought tree up which I’ll bark for this post, though is the word garbage.

Garbage entered English in the 1580s meaning waste parts of an animal used for human consumption – a definition that admittedly argues with itself. Somehow over time we’ve lost the Middle English verb garbelage, meaning to remove waste. When the trash must be taken out, I know many parents of teens who would take great joy in looking their teens in the eye and saying simply, “Garbelage.” Though the roots of garbage are officially unknown. Some etymologists argue it may have come from an Old French word meaning a bundle of wheat, garbe or jarbe. Other etymologists suggest garbage may have come from Anglo-French and may somehow have been influenced by the word garble.

The word waste is related to the word vast. Waste came to English through Anglo-French from Latin about 1200, meaning desolate regions. About 1400, waste picked up the meaning excess material. Waste paper was born in the 1580s and waste basket in the 1850s.

Litter showed up in the 1300s from Anglo-French, meaning a bed-like vehicle carried on the shoulders. By the early 1400s the word was being applied to mattresses & the straw used to fill them. By the late 1400s the noun litter was applied to the straw in which an animal might give birth, & soon after came to refer to the new offspring of such an animal. By the 1800s, litter also referred to the straw & the waste in it after it had served as animal bedding, & by the 1700s litter grew to mean disorderly debris.

The noun refuse came from Old French meaning a rejected thing. It was born of the verb refuse, as one might reject, disregard or avoid a rejected thing like refuse.

Rubbish also came from Anglo-French, meaning worthless material. It showed up in English in 1400 & is most likely related to the word rubble.

The noun trash came to English in the 1400s, meaning thing(s) of little use. It appears to have come from a Scandinavian source. By 1604 trash’s figurative life was born & folks started using the word to disparage groups of people. The term trashcan showed up in 1914, the verb trash, to destroy or vandalize, appeared in 1970, & the term trash-talk was born in 1989.

If you’d like to see more of Kevin’s work, please spend some time at KPKWorld  or read his thoughts about Ireland (& litter). If you’ve got something to say about all this etymological rubbish I’ve just thrown at you, please leave a note in the comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: KPKWorld, Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Boastful vanity

Boastful vanity

Somehow I ended up with an intriguing multi-volume dictionary, each slim volume detailing words associated with one of the seven deadly sins. This 2011 series is called The Deadly Dictionaries. This week’s post features words that appear in the volume titled Pride – a Dictionary for the Vain. May you enjoy the words, but avoid manifesting the meanings.

A person who is contumelious is scornfully arrogant or insolently abusive. The adjective contumelious came to English in the late 1400s through Old French from Latin.

Kvel (or kvell) came to English through Yiddish from a Middle High German word meaning to gush or swell. Those who kvel these days boast in an overly proud manner.

One who is fastuous is haughty, arrogant or ostentatious. Fastuous appeared in English in the 1600s from Latin.

Foofaraw is an excessive amount of decoration one heaps on oneself. The noun foofaraw was born in America in the 1930s. Etymologists haven’t nailed down its source, but some suggest it may have come from the Spanish word fanfaron, which means braggart.

Vain boasting can be called rotomontade, a noun that arrived in English about 1600. The word is based on the character Rodomonte in Arioso’s parody, Orlando Furioso.

In the 1580s the noun saucebox was born, meaning one who is addicted to making saucy remarks.

And we’ll finish up with some idioms meaning to boast:
-to swing the lamp
-to be puffed up
-to shoot a line
-to crow
-to draw the long bow
-to toot one’s own horn
-to think no small beer of oneself
-to fly the bunk
-to have cornstarchy airs

I’m hoping you have something to say about all this boastful vanity. If so, please leave a note in the comments section.