An ocean worth pondering

On Wednesday I promised a post on oronyms. I intend to deliver, but first you might want to be sure you’ve had your coffee.

An oronym is a string of words that sounds very much like another, often as a result of sounds running together. For example, “ice cream” sounds like “I scream.” I believe many misunderstood lyrics, or mondegreens, come from oronyms.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, of “You might be a redneck” fame, in at least one routine, uses oronyms to poke fun at country folk. Using the word “initiate,” he says, “My wife ate two sandwiches; initiate a bag o’ tater chips.” He sums up the size of his live audience by saying, “Mayonnaise a lot of people here tonight.”

When we talked about mondegreens back in April, a reader brought to my attention the work of Howard L. Chace, who re-wrote “Little Red Riding Hood,” using oronyms. It begins something like this:

Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage, honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry putty ladle rat cluck wetter ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.

Wan moaning, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut’s murder colder inset. “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, heresy ladle basking winsome burden barter an shirker cockles. Tick disk ladle basking tutor cordage offer groinmurder hoe lifts honor udder site offer florist. Shaker lake! Dun stopper laundry wrote! Dun stopper peck floors! Dun daily-doily inner florist, an yonder nor sorghum-stenches, dun stopper torque wet strainers!”

If you’d like to find out how the story ends, and if oronyms strike your fancy, you might be interested in Howard L. Chace’s book,  Anguish Languish, in which you can also read all about “Guilty Looks Enter Tree Beers” and “Oiled Murder Harbored.”

5 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish, Reading

5 responses to “An ocean worth pondering

  1. dave

    Hard Chichester beast rider inner whirled!

    • Sharon

      I always have trouble figuring these out-I guess I’m too wedded to the written word. I get that ‘initiate’ means ‘and then she ate,’ but even after looking it up, I’m just not getting ‘mayonnaise.’
      (By the way, the ‘mondegreens’ link has a missing ‘e,’ not something that spell check would be likely to catch!)

  2. Sharon

    Thanks. I never would have gotten that without hearing it pronounced.

  3. Polly

    like a story made of Mad Gab cards.

    Years ago my English teacher wrote this phrase on the board and wondered why she heard this daily in our class (after lunch for some).

    “Jeet jet?” Then we understood her point about enunciation.

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