Friday, February 20, 2009


This is a splendid example of a mondegreen: a ‘mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near-homophony, in a way that yields a new meaning to the phrase’.

For those of you youngsters out there, this is from the song All By Myself.

It is misheard as Obama’s elf through (i) vocalization/deletion of /l/ in all; (ii) smoothing of the diphthongs in by and my; and (iii) perceived linking between (Obama’)s and elf.

If the s in Obama’s had been voiced (e.g. realized as /z/), however, it would have been perfect.


Anonymous said...

If Micheal Bolton sees this, he sure is going to stop singing. :)

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Heh. I can't get 'Obama's elf' out of my head when I hear the song nowadays...