Ode to a tin ear… how language gets mangled (cringeworthy misheard song lyrics, malaprops, and more!)

I just read a great piece from Rob Reinalda at Ragan.com on how language gets mangled with some tips for how to avoid making such errors: http://bit.ly/dk3wae Sometimes it’s just that people don’t hear the word right in the first place, and Reinalda advises that “Questioning meaning can help you avoid misusing ‘familiar’ terms.” One of his examples is the unword “supposably.”

A first cousin to this syndrome is the butchering of song lyrics, sometimes with funny or embarrassing results especially when sung exuberantly by a music lover who didn’t quite get the words the way they were intended. You can check some of those out at http://www.kissthisguy.com/, the Archive of Misheard Lyrics, which designates some as the funniest or most absurd of the week while showing what the lyrics really were. Even the the national anthem has gotten contorted into some intriguing or just-plain-funny takes on it. Reinalda’s piece touches on those mangled words and phrases–many of which we start to associate with certain individuals. Most of us DO have some language blind spots. And, with a little “need more coffee” digression here, I think many of us have typing blind spots, too. Do you ever find that there are some words that your fingers just want to type with transposed letters? I used to find that I’d type “teh” instead of “the”? What IS that about, anyway, and why do these seem to be so different for each person? We’re told that we can take solace from knowing that it happens to incredibly gifted writers and journalists frequently, too. At least technology is helping us out a bit on the typing front, as you can set up your custom dictionary in Word to autocorrect common mistakes you know you’re making, though–such as my “teh” typing foible!

Feel free to post your thoughts on other tin-ear language mistakes you’ve heard (and don’t hesitate to share if you have any fat-fingered typing mistakes that you keep having to deal with, too!). When you hear them, do you tend to just let them go or do you ever correct the speaker especially if it’s a professional colleague or friend who you may really wish to help? There are definitely some alligators in that water as it’s a sensitive subject even if you’re intending to be proactive.

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