Category Archives: Duran Duran

My Mother’s Brother

My uncle Stanley turns eighty-six tomorrow. He’d be the first to admit that. Stan is one of those people whose birthday often falls on or very close to a major holiday. In his case, he must compete for attention with a basted, golden-brown bird. (Indeed, I found numerous greeting cards, like the one shown in this post, celebrating the coincidence of a person’s birthday with Turkey Day—not to be confused with Turkish Republic Day, which involves more fireworks and presumably less pumpkin pie.)

Today, at a small family get-together for Thanksgiving, I read a poem I wrote in my uncle’s honor. Stanley is fully capable of reading on his own, but my sister suggested that an oral presentation of the verses might be festive. I tend to shy away from having all eyes on me, but among friends and fam, I can be a bit of a ham—or turkey, as the case may be. When my sis and I were kids, we would put on “little shows,” with singing, dancing, and skits—about which I feign embarrassment to this day.

Below you will find an audio recording of my truly underwhelming recitation of the poem at today’s gathering and, below that, the text of the same.

Stan the Man

Stan the Man

I’d like to write a poem
About my mother’s brother;
To love him is to know him—
There really is no other.

But few words rhyme with “uncle”;
“Carbuncle” is the cutest.
Does Stan like Art Garfunkel?
He might prefer a flutist.

No, no, that just won’t do;
I have a better plan.
Yes, I will take my cue
From words that rhyme with “Stan”!

For one thing, Stan’s a man;
This cannot be disputed.
In Valley San Fernan—
Has he been firmly rooted.

Stan looks at life quite gaily,
This son of Chuck and Ann;
His boy plays ukulele,
His girl Duran Duran.

What’s Stan without his Linda?
She’s Jane to his Tarzan.
Their bond no one can hinder;
She bakes him bars pecan.

Stan likes to tell a joke;
He tells it very deadpan.
He’s such a witty bloke—
And drier than a bedpan.

On weekly family Zooms,
Stan educates the clan—
All in our separate rooms,
More smart than we began.

To list Stan’s qualities,
A year’s too short a span;
He aims always to please,
And I’m his biggest fan.

Who Was Lady Mondegreen?

Lady Mondegreen

Have you ever been shocked to discover that the words of a song you’ve heard countless times were not the actual lyrics—or even close? Would you also be shocked to know there is a term for this kind of error? A mondegreen is a word or phrase that results from mishearing or misinterpreting something auditory, such as a song. The listener substitutes words that sound similar to the misheard content and that seem sufficiently plausible in context.

A famous mondegreen is “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” (instead of “Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” a line from Jimi Hendrix’s song “Purple Haze”). Another oft-cited musical mondegreen is “There’s a bathroom on the right” (rather than “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” Creedence Clearwater Revival). Examples of mondegreens in everyday language include “for all intensive purposes” (“for all intents and purposes”), “deep-seeded” (“deep-seated”), and “one in the same” (“one and the same”). I am always surprised to find that someone thinks the name of the HBO series about Carrie Bradshaw and her friends is Sex in the City (not Sex and the City).

The word mondegreen is itself a mondegreen. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954. When Wright was a child, her mother would read to her from an eighteenth-century collection of ballads and popular songs. One of Wright’s favorite poems, “The Bonny Earl o’ Moray,” began as follows:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

Wright envisaged Lady Mondegreen as a woman with dark curls and a green dress, her throat pierced by an arrow; she lay at the earl’s side, holding his hand. However, the real fourth line of the verse was not “And Lady Mondegreen” but “And laid him on the green.” In other words, there was no Lady Mondegreen! Wright memorialized her tragic yet nonexistent heroine in the name of the phenomenon she exemplified.

I believe I have proof that a musician succumbed to a mondegreen—in his own song! Duran Duran released the album Seven and the Ragged Tiger in November 1983. Here is the chorus of the second track, “New Moon on Monday” (scanned from the inner sleeve):

New Moon chorus
The first few times I heard the song, I mistook “firedance through the night” for “five days through the night”—words that romantically evoked a night so long and full of adventure that it was equivalent to five days. (This line has stumped others, as well.) I caught my mistake, however, while studying the actual lyrics. When the video for “New Moon on Monday” premiered, I was astonished to see that John Taylor, the group’s bassist, seemed to have the same misunderstanding! Near the end of the video, while enthusiastically lip-syncing “And a firedance through the night,” he twice held up his hand as if indicating the number five—as in “five days through the night”!

five days

“Five days through the night”?

It seems inconceivable that a guitarist would hear his own song incorrectly, so perhaps I misperceived the gesture and substituted my own interpretation—you know, a new moon.