Broaden your vocabulary with Another Kind Of Mind! I’m fascinated by words and where they come from – and the English language is full of some seriously weird examples of words describing and defining some incredibly random concepts you probably never knew existed. Researching this subject out of curiosity, I came across quite a few of these words which I had to share with you all.
So, every once in a while I’ll be defining a couple of these words for you – and here’s today’s…
A desire path (or desire line) is the name given to a concept you would never think actually had a name. You’ve probably seen plenty of desire paths in your own neighbourhood – they’re those shortcut tracks across grassy areas made by walkers and cyclists repeatedly cutting through from one place to another (you can see plenty of examples in this fascinating post over at the excellent Spitalfields Life).
They are, I suppose, pathways where people desire them to be, providing easier access to commonly-used destinations than the routes provided by the ‘official’ layout of a place. Indeed, it appears that some planners have picked up on the concept of desire lines and now analyse pedestrian and cycle traffic routes before laying out their designs.
I’m not sure I approve of this official analysis of desire paths as a planning dilemma – in fact, I agree with the Gentle Author over at Spitalfields Life (see link above):
I do not believe that desire paths are a problem which can be solved because desire paths are not a problem, they are a heartening reminder of the irreducible nature of the human spirit that can never be contained and will always be wandering.
A mondegreen is, very simply, a misheard lyric. Famous examples include “Scuse me while I kiss this guy” for “Scuse me while I kiss the sky” from Jimi Hendrix’s classic Purple Haze (something Jimi used to play on, singing the ‘wrong’ lyric live), and “Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard” (satanic furniture?) for “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me” from Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
The word itself is a mondegreen, coined by the American writer Sylvia Wright in the mid-1950s after she realised she’d long been mishearing the line “and laid him on the green” from the 17th century Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl O’Moray as “and Lady Mondegreen”. In her column for Harper’s Magazine, she quite rightly pointed out: “The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original”. And they quite often are…
We all have our own mondegreens, embarrassing though some of them might be to admit (as a child, like many others, I was convinced that Sting was singing about the BBC newsreader Sue Lawley in the chorus to The Police’s hit single So Lonely). In fact, after that admission from me, I’d love to hear your mondegreens too – leave a comment or tweet me, and maybe we could do a mondegreens post!