Posts Tagged 'Mondegreens'

Expletive deleted

subtitle swear word

Walking through the crowded shopping precinct on the way to work, I knew I was in trouble when I spotted a slightly deranged looking old man rushing towards me, waving his finger as if scolding an unknown entity.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!” he shouted.

I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him, but as soon as he was close enough to start waving his finger in my face, I was forced to stop. My latest trial pair of multifocal lenses immediately zoomed in on a couple of large NHS hearing aids precariously attached to his head, and I was temporarily distracted by wondering what model he had.

“Excuse me,” he shouted, “where’s the fuckin’ television?”

That’s a bit strong for nine in the morning, even in Glasgow, I thought.

“Sorry, where’s the what? ” I enquired, hoping I had misheard, and wondering just how deranged he actually was.

“The fuckin’ television”, he repeated, “The fuckin’ television”. I tried to look blank as I worked out an escape plan, but the television man was persistent. He continued to repeat his question whilst I continued to look blank, but at least the accusatory finger waving had ceased.

All of a sudden, I picked up on an amplified slushy ‘SH’ sound at the end of fuckin’ television and the penny finally dropped in the cookiebite cortex.

“Ah…the television shop”, I said, relieved that he didn’t have an imaginary television which went everywhere with him. “Which one?”

“Which what?” said the man.

“Which television shop” I replied, “…you said you were looking for the television shop?” I left out the fuckin’ for the sake of propriety.

His response was indignant. Perhaps he thought there was something wrong with my ears.

“Ah tellt ye, Hen…Virgin…Ah’m lookin’ fur the Virgin television shop!”

In my defence, the lip shapes of a guttural Glaswegian pronunciation of Virgin (Vuurgin) and the expletive are rather similar…


In retrospect, the lip shapes of ‘telephone’ and ‘television’ are clearly rather similar too, in any accent!



Crossed wires

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane's

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane’s

The Cookiebite Cortex, the part of the HOH brain responsible for piecing together fragments of speech and making up fanciful interpretations of what is being said at any given time, has two error modes of output: 1. Utter Gibberish and 2. Strangely Poetic. In my experience, Utter Gibberish tends to be the default mode, and the cookiebiter owes a great debt of gratitude to the invention of written language, without which we would be condemned to an entire lifetime of people laughing at our strange turn of phrase whenever saying anything out loud.

Just occasionally, however, the Cookiebite Cortex swings into Strangely Poetic mode, in response to a series of contextual cues from its internal and external environment. I was reminded of this yesterday, as I heaved myself wearily over a stile whilst enjoying a nice country walk in the autumn sunshine. I managed to narrowly avoid ripping my trousers on the neighbouring barbed wire fence, and the brief touch of the vicious metal thorns strung from post to post stirred a long-buried memory; as a child, when I first saw a written reference to ‘barbed wire’, it took me a while to connect the concept to ‘bad wire’, my own misheard version of the name for the shin-ripping wire which lurked unseen in suburban undergrowth, waiting for its chance to painfully ensnare children who were running about after dark in places they shouldn’t…

Hearing Heaven

stained glass  loop symbol

“Good God!”, I exclaimed to myself last week, in the rather appropriate setting of a church. I had finally found my first loop system which was not only turned on, but actually had a mic attached to the person doing the talking; and all this without even having to ask, or write a complaint letter. Wow. At the touch of a button, the minister’s funeral oration was instantly transformed from reverberantly unintelligible to crystal clear. It felt like he was speaking directly into my ear, and the difference it makes is dramatically illustrated by this loop demonstration clip. As an added bonus in real life, you also get to eavesdrop on the minister’s whispered asides to the undertakers, etc.

With the new superpower faculties temporarily bestowed upon me by The Church of Scotland, I made the shock discovery that Jesus is actually the way, the truth and the life, rather than the light, contrary to what I have believed for the previous 47 years. In the astonishment of clearly hearing an ‘f’ sound for the first time in yonks, I forgot where I was and made an audible gasp which I then had to turn into a funereal sniffle for the sake of propriety. Still, it actually was a bit sad having Jesus’ light turned off so suddenly by the hearing loop, especially after finding out that he wasn’t Lord of the Dance Settee either.

Sadly, my brief entry to hearing heaven has given way to hearing hell at work, so it’s back to Clinic O next week, to see if there’s anything that can be done for their least favourite cookiebiter.


“Did you have a good break?” I asked a colleague as she held a door open for me after a meeting yesterday.

“Yes, thank you, I finally got a merkin!” she replied enthusiastically.

A terrifyingly graphic image flashed through my mind, causing the cookie bite cortex to spring immediately into ‘does not compute‘ mode. Time stood still as a lightning speed internal dialogue took place.

“Did she just say merkin? A pubic wig? Surely not…you wouldn’t admit to that sort of thing to someone you barely knew at work…especially me. No. It must be something that sounds like merkin, and to do with holidays…hmmm…gherkin? No, that’s even more unlikely than merkin…last thing you’d want on a holiday… okay, I give up. God, no wonder my concentration is terrible these days.”

“Sorry,” I said, leaning closer, “I didn’t quite catch that, you got a what?”

It was my colleague’s turn to look puzzled for a second.

“No”, she said, “I finally got to Ardnamurchan, the beaches were just beautiful.”

“That’s great!” I said with a huge sigh of relief.

Square Peg In A Round Hole

The lunchtime office chit chat was hotting up.

“Did I show you the photo of my big lump of skin?”, asked my colleague whilst reaching for her phone. Those in the immediate vicinity gathered round excitedly, but I wasn’t that keen.

“Eeeeeuw”, I said, peering over the top of my computer, ” Big lump of skin? What happened?”

“Not big lump of skin“, said my colleague with exaggerated mouth movements, “I said big romper suit!

Cripes, I thought. What was actually said was even more unlikely than the Cookiebite version for a change. I returned to sifting my email and was just wondering how I’d managed to get on the mailing list for the NHS Obesity Conference 2013, when the twice weekly fire alarm test sounded. It seemed very far away.

I stared at the wailing red dome on the ceiling for a bit as if that would explain everything, then asked everyone if the alarm sounded different to usual. It didn’t, apparently, so I reached to my ears for an explanation instead. I got one right away. The newly fitted domes attached to the newly fitted tubes attached to the brand new pair of Oticon Spirit Zests acquired at Clinic O the previous day (don’t ask) had freed themselves from my lugholes yet again, and were broadcasting to fresh air.

Swearing under my breath, I inserted a pinkie into each ear in the time-honoured fashion, and pushed the domes firmly back inside, wondering what audiological genius decided to put painful plastic corners on something that goes into your ear canal. 30 seconds later, they popped straight back out again. So I pushed them in even harder and held them in place for a bit to let them get used to the idea. It didn’t work.

“That’s it. I’m giving you one last chance!” I spluttered, forcing the recalcitrant domes into position a final time, before giving up and increasing the volume instead.

My minor observation, whilst being retubed at Clinic O the previous day, that the domes were a slightly different shape from the last ones, seemed to be of some significance after all…

Oticon corda tube is born

Clayed Moira on left, try it yourself. Don’t try the one on the right

“See that woman in Sainsbury’s”, said the spouse as he spread some funny looking paté on a piece of toast yesterday, “the one that torched herself on the checkout? She’s a right nutter. I mean, you go up to the till with your basket, right, and she’s looking at you as if…”

“Torched herself?” I interrupted, suddenly showing a morbid interest in what had previously been an extremely dull conversation. “Why did she do that?” I had just been having great fun claying myself on, but I couldn’t see anyone having much fun torching themself.

“…What?” said the spouse, losing his thread.

“You said: that woman, ‘the one that torched herself in Sainsbury’s’…”

“…Eh?” said the spouse, “don’t know where you got that from.”

“Think!” I commanded. I was going to have to walk him through the last sentence without risking him going right back to the start of the story. “You said: ‘see that woman in Sainsbury’s, the one that torched herself’… ”

“Christ!” wailed the spouse, “Talks to herself. TALKS. TO. HERSELF.”

Front Row

I attended a staff consultation event in the world famous lecture theatre of the Institute of Artistic Endeavour yesterday, and took up my usual lone position in the empty front rows, while everyone else crammed into the back seats. As PowerPoint warmed up, late entrants creaked down the hallowed wooden stairs, surveyed the empty rows at the front, then squeezed themselves uncomfortably onto the ends of the back rows.

After being given a brief outline of the afternoon’s proceedings, I was despatched to a breakout session in the Boardroom. In order to cover up my ineptitude at group discussions, I enthusiastically volunteered as one of the notetakers, a task which I planned to do from the comfort of my seat at the table, using several sheets of A4 paper and a rollerball pen. Unfortunately, the first notetaker spotted a huge flipchart in the corner and, having fully functional hearing, was keen to get on with squeaking away with a big marker pen, with his back to the room. Oh shit, I thought. The intricacies of the Learning and Teaching Strategy discussion drifted away from my consciousness as I blanched at the thought of how I was going to casually wrestle the flipchart into a suitable forward-facing position in the limited space when it was my turn. It was impossible. Aaaagh. I panicked as I realised I was about to be scrutinised from behind, as I wrote down a whole series of Cookie Bite Mondegreens, in huge capital letters for all to see.

Horribly prematurely, it seemed, the first notetaker finished, and I now had three options. 1. fake a heart attack, 2. take my place at the Flipchart of Doom and have a real heart attack, or 3. remain true to my intentions, appear lazy and write where I sat. I sensibly opted for the latter. Little did I know, all of that was the easy part…


It’s always safest to ask

As we leafed through the newspapers in bed this morning, the spouse turned to me with a faraway look in his eyes and said,

“Would you like a Benson sausage?”

What the heck is that I thought. The butcher’s name is Cranston.

“Is that some kind of euphemism?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t since I had a bit of a headache.

“Eh?” said the spouse. “Do you want one or not, make up your mind, I’m getting hungry.”

Relieved that we were, indeed, talking about food, I asked cautiously “What’s a Benson sausage?” I was worried it might be another of the spouse’s experimental forays into oddly flavoured bangers, like the pork and apple ones that tasted of car air freshener.

“VENISON SAUSAGE. I SAID VENISON.” groaned the spouse.


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