a word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of another word or phrase, especially in a song or poem.
The trouble with mondegreens is that they are usually so hysterically funny that you cannot stop citing examples of them instead of describing their “taxonomy” and history. Mondegreen was coined by the U.S. writer and humorist Sylvia Wright (1917-81), who wrote in an article in Harper’s Magazine: “When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember: ‘Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, / Oh, where hae ye been? / They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen,’” the last line being a child’s mishearing and consequent misunderstanding of “laid him on the green.” Ms. Wright persisted in her idiosyncratic version because the real words were less romantic than her own (mis)interpretation in which she always imagined the Bonnie Earl o’ Moray dying beside his faithful lover Lady Mondegreen.
We’ve been misunderstanding song lyrics for decades, Elton John’s “hold me closer, Tony Danza”—er, “tiny dancer”—included. These funky musical mishearings even have their own name: mondegreens.
We still have mondegreen moments. Even though I know Creedence Clearwater Revival is singing, “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” lately it sounds suspiciously like “There’s a bathroom on the right.”
in a direction contrary to the natural one, especially contrary to the apparent course of the sun or counterclockwise: considered as unlucky or causing disaster.
All you have to remember is that withershins (or widdershins) is the exact opposite of deasil, and you’ll get back home all safe and sound. Withershins is an adverb meaning “going contrary to the natural direction, contrary to the course of the sun, counterclockwise (and therefore unlucky).” Deasil, from Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic deiseal “to the right, clockwise, following the sun,” is restricted to Scots. Withershins comes from Middle Low German weddersins, weddersinnes “against the way, in the opposite direction,” formed from wider “back, again” (cognate with the prefix with– in withstand) and sinnes, the genitive case (used as an adverb) of sin “way, course, direction.” Withershins entered English in the first half of the 16th century.
The fishermen, when about to proceed to the fishing, think they would have bad luck, if they were to row the boat “withershins” about.
Abel had walked slowly around the outside of the building, first clockwise and then withershins, but there was still no sign of his quarry, and the rest of the lower hollow was just as empty.
attacking an opponent's character or motives rather than answering the argument or claim.
The phrase ad hominem, literally “to a person,” originally meant in rhetoric and logic “by appealing to the audience’s feelings, emotions, or interests, not to their intelligence or reason.” Nowadays the usual meaning of ad hominem is “by attacking an opponent’s character or motives, not their arguments.” Hominem, the object of the preposition ad “to,” is the accusative singular case of the Latin noun homō (inflectional stem homin-) “human being (of either sex), individual, person.”Homō is also used colloquially in Roman comedy (Plautus): Mī homō et mea mulier, vōs salūtō, literally “My man and my woman, I greet you.” In the example from Plautus we can clearly see that homō “man” is contrasted with mulier “woman.” In fact, all the Romance languages use a form of homin– to mean “man” as opposed to woman, e.g., Italian uomo, Spanish hombre (dissimilated from omne, which is contracted from omine), Portuguese homem, Catalan home, French homme, Sardo (Sardinian) omine, and Romanian om. The unpleasant counterpart ad fēminam “appealing to one’s personal feelings about or prejudices against women,” appeared in the 19th century. Ad hominem entered English in the 16th century.
In the case of online harassment, that instinctive preference for “free speech” may already be shaping the kinds of discussions we have, possibly by discouraging the participation of women, racial and sexual minorities, and anyone else likely to be singled out for ad-hominem abuse.
Greta Thunberg, at age 16, has quickly become one of the most visible climate activists in the world. Her detractors increasingly rely on ad hominem attacks to blunt her influence.
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