Category Archives: Sex and the City

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.

The Big Picture on Small Talk


In the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at UCLA, I took a screenwriting class. I was too immature for the course but also too immature to recognize that. The instructor was Richard Walter, screenwriting faculty chairman and “the screenwriter’s guru.” The text was Aristotle’s Poetics, literally a classic, which emphasizes the unity of time, place, and action in successful drama. Had the course occurred the following year, the required reading would likely have been Walter’s own newly published manual, Screenwriting: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Writing. I remember this book, which I purchased voluntarily, as helpful and humorous, with vivid illustrations—some of which I still recall over two dozen years later.

In a section about chitchat, Walter advises that scripts not include the kind of “prattle” that pervades our daily interactions: “Hi, how are you?—Fine, thanks. Yourself?—Not bad, thanks.—The family?—Just great, though the baby has a rash. You?” Also called “small talk,” this cordial conversation about trivial matters is used especially in social situations, such as at parties, around the office, in line at the grocery store, waiting for a bus, etc. In a movie or television show, such “trifling talk” neither advances the plot nor enhances character. Walter cites a screenplay, written by a student, that contained 20 pages’ worth of such pleasantries. The writer ultimately decided to substitute more exciting language. Compare:


TOM: Hi, Debbie.

DEBBIE: Hi, Tom.


TOM: Sexy dress!

DEBBIE: Like it?

TOM: Love it!

naked dressRereading this example the other day made me think of a scene from an early episode of Sex and the City, in which Carrie wears a short, slinky, nude-toned dress (which Charlotte dubs “the naked dress”) on her first official date with Big. As she approaches his car, he addresses her:

BIG: Interesting dress.

CARRIE: Meaning?

BIG: Interesting dress.

The exchange hints at the characters’ powerful physical attraction, to which they succumb moments later (and again, on and off, throughout the show’s run). A more small talk-y, less effective greeting might have been as follows:

BIG: Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE: Hi . . . well, we call you Mr. Big.

As an introvert, I question whether small talk is best avoided in real life, as well. (I have never been shy about my introversion.) Articles on the qualities of the introverted temperament consistently mention a dislike for small talk. But why do introverts shun chitchat? Here are some possible explanations, which I can personally validate:

  1. Introverts enjoy deep conversations, about ideas and theories.
  2. Introverts like to think before they speak.
  3. Introverts don’t talk unless they have something to say.
  4. Introverts are active listeners.
  5. Introverts are exhausted by small talk, because interaction drains their energy.

While engaging in light dialogue can be stressful and tiring for those of us who are introverted, this type of communication is inescapable. Therefore, fellow introverts, I encourage you to keep the benefits of small talk in mind the next time you find yourself on an airplane next to a stranger, at a networking event, or in the barber’s chair:

  1. Small talk provides an opportunity to connect.
  2. Small talk conveys interest, people like when you take an interest in them, and so they will like you.
  3. Small talk can lead to big things, such as relationships and business deals.
  4. Small talk puts you in the present moment.
  5. Small talk improves your problem-solving abilities.

In other words, small talk might advance the plot and enhance character after all.

Carrie Bradshaw by the Numbers

Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City

According to numerologist Glynis McCants (and Greek mathematician Pythagoras), numbers possess a vibrational energy that forms the foundation of the universe. In numerology, the numbers associated with a person’s name and birthdate reveal his or her strengths, weaknesses, goals, and gifts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have considered using numerology as an aid in character development. So I was curious whether the qualities of successful fictional characters did, in fact, reflect their “numbers.”

I chose to examine Carrie Bradshaw, from HBO’s Sex and the City. Bravo ranked her eleventh on their list of the 100 greatest TV characters, and she came in second among TV Guide’s 25 greatest TV characters of all time. So I think it can safely be argued that she is an effective character. I located her birthdate on an infographic of fictional characters’ birthdays. Based on this date and her name, I calculated her basic numerology blueprint, below. (For an explanation of how the computations are made, please check out Glynis Has Your Number.)

Carrie Bradshaw, born 6/15/1966

Life path: 7

Birth day: 6

Attitude: 3

Soul: 8

Personality: 5

Power name: 4

So what do all these numbers mean?

Your life path number indicates the course your life must take in order for you to be satisfied. The 7 vibration is a truth-seeker, always asking, “Who am I?” In life and in her column, Carrie constantly tries to get to the truth about people. For example:

Later that day, I got to thinking about fairy tales. What if Prince Charming had never shown up? Would Snow White have lain in that glass box forever? I couldn’t help but wonder: inside every confident, driven, single woman, is there a delicate, fragile princess just waiting to be saved? Was Charlotte right? Do women just want to be rescued?

A recent article has compiled everything Carrie ever wondered about, season by season.

Your birth day number signifies how others see you. Someone born on a 6 day, like Carrie, “craves love, friends, and companionship.” Carrie’s character and the entire show are centered around this idea; the four protagonists remain inseparable. As Big observes, “You three know her better than anyone; you’re the loves of her life. And a guy’s just lucky to come in fourth.”

Your attitude number reflects your basic outlook on life. Carrie, as a 3 vibration, “values communication and creative energy”; her job as a writer is a perfect reflection of this aspect. A person with a 3 attitude “tends to be the joker. They have a sense of humor.” Indeed, Carrie uses self-deprecating humor to confront the issues in her life.

Your soul number represents what you feel inside. The 8 soul, like Carrie’s, is happy when it has “financial freedom, job security, and a nice home.” Accordingly, Carrie is very connected to her job and her apartment. She also lives on the dark side of the number 8, as shown in her lack of financial freedom: dismayed that she can’t afford to buy her apartment because of her excessive acquisition of expensive footwear, she laments that she will “literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes.”

Your personality number denotes what you show the world. The 5 personality “has an air of fun and energy” and “wants to know where the party is.” Indeed, Carrie has made appearances at countless parties—the Fleet Week party, the purse party, the party where someone steals her shoes, the all-couples party, and the black and white ball, to name a tiny fraction. The 5 personality is also known for having an addictive streak; Carrie is an on-again, off-again smoker who may have a dangerous shopping habit.

Your power name number represents the strength of your name. Carrie’s 4 vibration signifies “The Teacher.” And she really has made her name in the world by educating and enlightening others through her column and books. The people she meets often refer to her as their relationship guru.

Carrie Bradshaw seems to embody her numerology quite convincingly. Yet I can’t help but wonder: could I have made the numerology of any fictional character work? Am I just that good at twisting information for my own purposes?