Saturday, August 27, 2016

Slip of the tongue - Is it normal?

Dear Dr. Phil,
I am in tenth grade and an OK student. 
I find that I constantly make stupid mistakes when I speak. My mom says that I don’t do it that much and that everyone misspeaks. I use the wrong word, but it sounds like the right word to me. I am noticing it a lot and don’t want kids at school laughing at me.
Keith, Reno Nevada
Everyone makes word replacement mistakes
Keith, my heart goes out to you. It is hard being in high school. But, rest assured, tripping over your own tongue is simply a part of life. There are two major ways we do it, both normal and often funny. So, before I explain, please let me give you some advice. Allow yourself to laugh at yourself when you trip over your own tongue.
If you flub up on purpose, it is called a joke or a pun. I love puns. I love the way it makes my kids moan with embarrassment when I pun. Also, a good portion of my cartoons are puns. That little play on words that tickles the funny bone. So, when you trip up, go with it.
There are 2 common verbal mistakes that often cause snickering: malaprop and mondegreen.
A malaprop is a mistake we make when we accidentally replace a word or phase with one that sounds similar. Sometimes this turns out to be hilarious. 
Once, when I was a kid watching Archie Bunker in the TV show, "All in the Family", I almost wet my pants. Archie was upset about “Orthodox Jews” but he accidentally called them “Off-the-dock Jews.” This infuriated my mother, which made me laugh even harder. 
My mother disliked puns, seeing them as a form of low class humor. She, and people of her time, called malapropisms, dogberry’s, after the character in William Shakespeare’s play, "Much Ado About Nothing." A line I like from the play is when Constable Dogberry tells Governor Leonato, "Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons", when he meant to say, “apprehended two suspicious persons.” (Act 3, Scene V)
Malapropism gets its name from the the fictional Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play, "The Rivals" (1775).
So, we have to laugh at malapropisms, they are part of the human condition. Take some solace in that they are not unique to you.
Mondegreens are words or phrases that we mishear. It can happen in normal conversation, and is very common when listening to songs.
If I am walking through the mall and someone yells, “Bill” it will get my attention. It sounds close to “Phil” so I might actually hear it as “Phil”. 
The word, mondegeen was coined by Sylvia Write in an essay entitled, "The Death of Lady Mondegreen” in Harper’s Magazine (1954).
Write gives an example of this, using Psalm 23:1-6 to illustrate her point:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Is often heard as:

Surely Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life…

One Christmas, when my oldest son was only 6, he was upset with his mother and me when we told him that he was messing up the words to Jingle Bells. He was positive the words were, 

Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits cry

Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits bright

This cartoon’s wording came from a similar conversation with my kids about “All of the other reindeer” from Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, written by Johnny Marks.

We can all easily and often mishear or misspeak. 

Got a favorite mishear or misspeak? Leave it in the comment section. Thanks!

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