Misread Titles

By Brenda Clough

Everyone knows what a mondegreen is.  It’s the term for when Jimi Hendrix sings, “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy” or children recite the  Pledge of Allegiance with the line, “… and to the Republic for Richard Stands.”  In other words, it’s an error of the ear.

There is no word, yet, for misread titles — an error of the eye.  But these too are common, in these days of divided attention and vision difficulties.  Editor Scott Edelman reported  on Facebook recently that he misread a TV show name, Here Come the Drones, as Here Come the Bronies. Reading his post, I then misread it as Here Come the Brontes.  And I knew exactly what the work was, too!  (British sitcom. A madcap family of arty siblings set the moors of North Yorkshire ringing with their laughable antics.  A cross between the Casson family YA novels by Hilary McKay and Fawlty Towers. With Michael Palin in the role of the lovable tippler curate father, Patrick Bronte.)

Another one would be THE TOWELS OF MARCO POLO, a volume which I actually once saw on a high shelf in a used book store. Palpitating with excitement, I fetched the stepladder and climbed up to examine it; disappointingly it was a faded TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO. (A Venetian interior designer’s quest across Central Asia for the bathroom decor of his dreams; large format, with many glossy photos of stacked towels and high-thread-count sheets, and a fulsome introduction by Martha Stewart.)

If you have misread a title recently, what would the misread work be about?

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies, including our latest, Beyond Grimm.

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Misread Titles — 5 Comments

  1. I got into a long discussion with the folks at Snopes about Mondegreens. It’s my contention that accidental mis-hearings don’t qualify, or you would end up with the entire Nirvana catalogue because of Kurt Cobain’s tendency to mumble. To me, it only is a real Mondegreen if you can’t resist hearing the new version, so that when you listen to Hendrix, you can’t not hear “Excuse me while I kiss this guy”, or Creedence Clearwater, “There’s a bathroom on the right” AND it has to be believable. (I am not convinced that any adult could listen to Jose Feliciano and think he was actually saying, “Fleas navidad.”)

    But hey, mis-hearings are more fun! Who wouldn’t want to read about Marco Polo’s Towels?

    Thanks for sparking this discussion!

  2. Another singer with terrible diction is Bruce Springsteen. And Patti Lupone, OMG. If it were not for lyrics on the backs of album covers or inside CD cases we would be done.
    I wish someone would make “Here Come the Brontes”. In the first episode, those naughty imps Bramwell and Anne paint a racy image on the back side of the chapel doors, causing Rev. Bronte to lose track of his homily on Sunday, and Charlotte tries to build a flying machine in the garden. Meanwhile, six-year-old Emily sends an order by mail for the works of Voltaire, who she thinks is a children’s author…

  3. A friend of mine once misread “Sandworms of Dune” as “Sandwiches of Dune”. I’d _so_ read the latter.

  4. Sandwiches of Dune is obviously a cookbook. One of those spiral-bound vaguely organic ones, with line drawings depicting an ingredient or two. Unfortunately I can’t remember enough about the novels to know what the sandwiches themselves would be like.

  5. When the movie “The Devil wears Prada” came out, I thought it was a Soviet-era spy thriller–as in “The Devil Wears Pravda” (something worthy of Tom Clancy).

    Classical music has its own misheard titles–one of the best known would be the Taco Bell Canon. Another one is the Bronze Lullaby.