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Rambling around Lulworths and Minchinhamptons and Mondegreens

Some time ago, while mulling over my thoughts about Facebook and privacy (soon to be the tenth and last post in the Facebook and the Enterprise series) I’d been re-reading danah boyd‘s writings on the subject nearly a year ago. She starts a section called Exposure by saying:

Have you ever been screaming to be heard in a loud environment when suddenly the music stops and everyone hears the end of your sentence? And then they turn to stare? I’m guessing you turned beet red. (And if you didn’t, exposure is not one of your problems.

“She’s talking about lulworths”, I said to myself. And then proceeded to feel quite frustrated, because for the life of me I could not remember why I thought that danah was referring to “lulworths”. Until this morning, when light dawned en route Lord’s and the cricket.

[An aside. Had a great day at Lord's. Great atmosphere, great company, some excellent cricket, particularly by England. Even if Tendulkar was stopped dead in his tracks, and Dravid wasn't even allowed to start..... by some truly diabolical umpiring. It was, nevertheless, England's day, and England deserved to win.]

While writing about going to Lord’s I’d mentioned the word “didcot” from The Meaning of Liff. Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, the authors of The Meaning of Liff, describe the book as follows:

In Life*, there are many hundreds of common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects which we all know and recognize, but for which no words exist. On the other hand, the world is littererd with thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places. Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.

*And, indeed, in Liff

While thinking about didcots I remembered where I’d seen lulworths. Adams and Lloyd define “lulworth” thus:

LULWORTH (n.)
Measure of conversation. A lulworth defines the amount of the length, loudness and embarrassment of a statement you make when everyone else in the room unaccountably stops talking at the same time.

Pretty much what danah was describing. Try and read The Meaning Of Liff if you get a chance, it may be dated but it’s fun. Here are a few excerpts:

ABERBEEG (vb.)
Of amateur actors, to adopt a Mexican accent when called upon to play any variety of foreigner (except Pakistanis – for whom a Welsh accent is considered sufficient).

HATHERSAGE (n.)
The tiny snippets of beard which coat the inside of a washbasin after shaving in it.

MINCHINHAMPTON (n.)
The expression on a man’s face when he has just zipped up his trousers without due care and attention.

Incidentally, talking about Minchinhampton, I once had the pleasure of playing the Minchinhampton Old Course many years ago. If I remember correctly, it was the only course I’ve played on whose local rules offered me a free drop if my ball nestled in a cowpat! I managed to eschew that particular experience. They also had some very unusual flags, or what passed for them on the greens. White tubes maybe three foot long, and that’s all. The Old Course is on common land, and cows are free to graze there, to feed on the cloth flags (which they could if there were any), and to decorate the fairways with fresh dung (which they can and do).

Which brings me on to my final point in this Saturday evening stroll. Mondegreen.

Ye Highlands, and ye Lawlands

Oh where have you been?

They have slain the Earl of Murray,

And layd him on the green.

The verses above are taken from The Bonny Earl of Murray, and, as the wikipedia article details, the last line is often recited as “And Lady Mondegreen”. Hence the word “mondegreen”, to refer to aural corruptions. I guess most of the mondegreens I know come from the realm of popular music: perhaps the best-known is “Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (for “Kiss The Sky”), somehow shoehorned into Hendrix’s Purple Haze. Which is why this site, containing the most famous misheard lyrics, has the url www.kissthisguy.com

A coda. How long before we start seeing “etymologies” for urls? Just a thought.

Posted in Four pillars .


7 Responses

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  1. Frank Paynter says

    Ahh yes, the delicious Mondegreens. Jon Carroll has been serving up Mondegreen salads on the web since 1995. His last dozen years’ web production is available here. He wrote many columns full of Mondegreen lore for years before the Chronicle starting posting them to the web.

  2. zephoria says

    Oooh! Thank you for this!!

  3. Sean says

    In case you hadn’t already see it, I think you will enjoy this TED video – Erin McKean redefines the dictionary:

  4. JP says

    Hey danah, thanks for dropping by. You’ll find a few more references coming your way in the next two “Facebook and the Enterprise” posts…..

    Sean, I agree completely. I had seen the video, it is well worth watching.

  5. Shefaly says

    Something tells me you will like Michael Erard’s book ‘Um…:’ :-)

  6. JP says

    Thanks Shefaly. I’d never heard of the book. Now ordered, looks fascinating.

    And he lives in Austin, a city I visit regularly. Gets better.

    Thanks again.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. On S-O Simon and related things – confused of calcutta linked to this post on September 1, 2012

    [...] has its mondegreens, something I wrote about here and here. Now radio jingles may not be universally accepted as music, and for good reason. [...]



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