The late Ulster playwright, Stewart Parker, wrote a television play 30 years ago that took its title from a bus driver's mishearing of a song lyric. Instead of singing I'm A Dreamer, Aren't We All, the driver sang 'I'm A Dreamer, Montreal'. Mishearing song lyrics is one of the commonest miscommunications - perhaps due to an inattentive ear or a singer stretching vowels to hit the notes, or maybe the words just sound awfully like something else.
Bonnie Tyler sang It's A Heartache but some heard 'It's A Hard Egg'. Right Said Fred sang I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt, but it sounded like 'It's Two-Sixty For My Shirt'.
And Andrew Lloyd Webber (below) cannot have been amused to hear someone crooning 'Don't Cry For Me, I'm The Cleaner' any more than Cole Porter would be at hearing someone singing 'I've Got You Under My Sink'.
Some mishearings can have more serious implications. During World War One a dodgy radio signal pleading 'Send reinforcements. We're going to advance' got translated into 'Send three-and-fourpence, we're going to a dance'.
A famous Second World War radio signal was translated as 'Keep off the virgins, they're mine'. It should have read 'Keep off the verges, they're mined'.
At a book signing session, the author Monica Dickens happily signed a book to 'Emma Chisit' before realising that the lady was inquiring about the price.
As one who has reached the age where I suspect that people around me have started to mumble, I can understand why a lady called JA Wines has produced an entire book called Mondegreens (published by Michael O'Mara) dedicated to mishearings. A surreal world where an Iranian hostage crisis becomes an Ostrich crisis and juxtaposition becomes the jockstrap position. It is a very funny book indeed and studded with entertaining anecdotes.
The famous Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, was once interviewed at the BBC and afterwards a taxi was called to take him home. Spotting a taxi idling close by he walked over and asked if the driver was there to collect him. "Not me, mate," said the cabbie, "I'm here to collect four Airedales."
THE TELEPHONE FROM HELL
Just when you thought the surveillance society couldn't get any worse, it just has. A new mobile telephone that tells you exactly where whoever you are calling actually is, has come on the market. They have managed to mate the mobile phone with a satellite navigation device to create the telephone from hell.
No more telling her "I'm working late" when her little satellite map will pinpoint you in a pub or poker game.
If Hillary Clinton ever wonders where Bill has wandered off to, she'll be able to ring him up and know to within a few yards. The quicker we get a Bill of Rights to stop this kind of intrusion, the better. As Ogden Nash observed, progress may have been alright once but it has gone on too long.
THE TREACHEROUS SEASON
Spring is a dangerous season for domestic man. At this time of year he often observes a startling transformation in the woman of the house. An apparently normal woman can suddenly, without provocation, turn into Throwout- woman — a frenzied creature who decides the home would be tidier if she threw everything out that isn't nailed down.
A neighbour had three brand new summer shirts he'd bought in an end of season sale stuffed into a plastic bag and given to War on Want. When he protested his wife retorted that he never wore them anyway. "It isn't summer yet," he said, but that sort of thing cuts no ice with a woman in throw-out mode.
The lady next door was about to throw out her husband's library books until he rescued them in the nick of time. I, myself, have had to practically place my body in front of our book case to stop Daph throwing out volumes that look untidy and lack the neat uniformity she feels bookshelves should have.
To her, books that have been read are like empty milk cartons that have no useful function. Daph cannot grasp that many of those books are home to people I love. Fictional people, perhaps, but people who have given me great pleasure down the years. Their homes may be a little tatty now but you don't evict people you care about just to make the place tidier. And a tidy bookshelf is the mark of a sick mind. I'm sure I've read that somewhere. Probably in one of the books she wants to throw out.
At this time of year you will see many a sad man at the local dump with mementoes of his existence piled into a box, almost in tears as he ditches favourite books, cardigans, cricket bats or hurly sticks. But in life one man's souvenirs are another woman's pile of rubbish. It is the time of year when an excitable woman gives ultimatums like "Either that rubbish goes or I do." It wouldn't do to let her know how often that turns out to be a very close call.
T-SHIRT SLOGAN FOR SENIORS
Been There. Done That. Can't Remember.