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“Meatball Sugar”… Say What?

by Michele Linder

When mishearing leads to a good laugh

According to Miriam Websters Dictionary, a mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony.  In a way that gives it a new meaning. It often happens when a person is listening to a poem or a song.  But it can also happen in other situations where spoken words sound similar or look similar on the lips. Interestingly, the term was coined in 1954 by American writer Sylvia Wright while writing about how as a girl she had misheard the lyric “…and laid him on the green” in a Scottish ballad as “…and Lady Mondegreen”.

Mishearing is common among those with hearing loss and those who rely heavily on lipreading, but it isn’t exclusive to that group. Even hearing people get words that sound and look alike on the lips wrong on occasion.

I recently was watching The Great American Baking Show and had a real laugh-out-loud moment during the Custard and Meringue Week episode. The moment can be found at around minute 4:40 of Stephanie’s Maple Fennel Crème Brûlée segment.

Mary Berry, one of the judges on the show, expresses her concern over the unusual combination of maple and fennel being used in a sweet custard dish:

Stephanie, the baker in question, assures Mary that the fennel compliments the maple syrup and maple sugar.

Looking a bit perplexed, Mary asks Stephanie…

Then it’s Stephanie’s turn to look perplexed…

Realization sets in and the whole room erupts in laughter at Mary’s mishearing…

Try it while looking in the mirror… say “meatball sugar”, then say “maple sugar”.  It’s really interesting that really different words can be mistaken, each for the other.

Mary, being a good sport, gets a big kick out of it herself…

And, of course, Johnny Iuzzini, the other judge, has to lend some sarcasm…

Sometimes the best thing — whether you’re a person with hearing loss, laughter that comes from mishearing what was intended is the best thing.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

For more information about lipreading, see Lipreading Tips posted June 6, 2017.

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