The pleasant legions

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Reader JTB writes:

Our daughter Sophia just started kindergarten. Last week I asked her to tell me about school. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Tell me something interesting about kindergarten today, honey.
Sophia: Well, there's the pleasant legions.
Me: The pleasant legions?
Sophia: Yeah, it's like a prayer to the flag.

JTB allows as how it might also have been "pleasant legence", with Sophia breathing new life into the obsolete word legence meaning "license", as in the OED's citation

1518 Extracts Council Reg. Aberdeen (1844) I. 94   The legence gevin to vnfremen to saill with merchandeise.

Over the decades, the pledge of allegiance has given birth to many fabled (and perhaps even real) mondegreens or eggcorns, e.g.

I led the pigeons to the flag / I pledge a lesion to the flag
And to the republic of Richard Stands / And truly the public witches stand
One naked individual, with liver, tea, and just this for all.

But those pleasant legions are my favorite so far.


  1. Rodger C said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 6:51 am

    "One naked individual"–that must be from my own first years in school, before 1954, since it has no reflex of the intrusive "under God." Any examples reflecting the latter?

  2. a George said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 6:52 am

    — it all goes to prove that all children are "Real Boys".

  3. DEP said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    When my brother came home from the first day of first grade, my mother asked him if they had said the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
    "No," he said. "We just talked to it."

  4. Rob P. said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 7:55 am

    So who are these vnfremen who are licensed to sail with merchandeise?

  5. Alon Lischinsky said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    Although I have no hard data to support the hypothesis, I suppose it's no big stretch to assume that ceremonial texts such as pledges, hymns and prayers are a major source of this kind of processing errors, having a high density of archaic syntax and lexis.

    The lyrics of “Mi bandera”, a well-known Argentinian patriotic song, are the subject of a running gag, in which con valor sus vínculos rompió ‘[Argentina] bravely broke its bonds’ are reinterpreted as con valor Susvín culos rompió ‘Susvín bravely kicked their asses’.

  6. S. Norman said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    Our Father who art in Heaven
    Howard be thy name

    That's the 'h' in Jesus H. Christ

  7. Fritz said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    I learned 'Harold be thy name'. And 'Lead us not into Penn Station."

  8. ajay said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    The lyrics of “Mi bandera”, a well-known Argentinian patriotic song, are the subject of a running gag, in which con valor sus vínculos rompió ‘[Argentina] bravely broke its bonds’ are reinterpreted as con valor Susvín culos rompió ‘Susvín bravely kicked their asses’.

    See also the motto of Oxford University as displayed on its coat of arms (, which if you read it correctly down one page and then down the other reads DOMINUS ILLUMINATIO MEA, "The Lord is my light", but if you read it across the spread, top to bottom, reads "DOMIMINA NUSTIO ILLUMEA" which with a bit of a stretch translates as "The little lady is off her flaming nut".

  9. ajay said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    "Where Alf my next-door neighbour ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea."

  10. DEP said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    Then there is the famous hymn, "Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear"
    (Last one from me.)

  11. Andy Watkinson said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:16 am

    "We are His flock, he doth us feed;
    And for His sheep he doth a steak."

    And why not?

  12. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:26 am

    Of course, little kids often mishear the opening of the American national anthem, personifying "Oh say…", then proudly belting out "José…can you see…", which I'm sure just tickles to-no-end the likes of hard-ass, anti-Latino immigrant, Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the equally xenophobic State governor, Jan Brewer.

    Yes, I dare say, many a José standing on Mexican soil, aspiring to give he and his family a better life in the U.S., "by the dawn's early light", has peered longingly over that border fence dividing Mexico from California, (or Arizona, or Texas), seeing The Stars-and-Stripes—Old Glory— "gallantly waving" on U.S. turf.

    But this is an issue that goes far beyond musings on clever 'eggcorns'.

    As an expat Canadian, having lived here in California for over three decades, I harken back to my misspent youth (not really….misspent that is. HA!), and recall very young grade-school Canucks starting off our national anthem w/" 'O' Can-da-da, our home….." , almost stuttering our country's name, replacing the "nah" sounding syllable w/ a "da" syllable, resulting in a staccato-like "da-da", and not the politically correct "na-da". (Not qualifying as an 'eggcorn', per se, but an interesting take on how we often mishear certain words, and unwittingly misappropriate them, in a sense.)

    Admittedly, most adults find this child's fumbled version rather cute and charming. Yet, if our Founding Fathers of Confederation were still kicking, perhaps not so much. (By-and-large, they were a rather stuffy, serious lot.)

    The latter was a bit of a moot point, since the "O" Canada anthem wasn't even around back in 1867 when we became a Dominion, and Scots-born John A. MacDonald assumed the office of first Prime Minister.

    In point of fact, it likely took a while before even "God Save the King" (now "Queen", of course) was adopted as our first (and only) official national anthem, until "O" Canada arrived in the middle of the 20th century, eclipsing "God Save the Queen" in popularity. But I digress.

  13. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    I'm told that the Soviet Air Force hymn described the force as "schafka" -meaning "legend" – but this was often sung as "Kafka."

    The Jewish grace after meals traditionally begins "Rabotai n'vareich" – "Gentlemen, let us bless." In various dialects, that might be eg Ravosai, or several other possibilities… but in the "dialect" that I learned as a child from the teenagers it was always "Rubber tires never break."

  14. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    > seeing The Stars-and-Stripes—Old Glory— "gallantly waving" on
    > U.S. turf.

    Since I have been so gallanty corrected every single day this week, I feel it is opportunistic of me to point out that the "broad stripes and bright stars" were "so gallantly streaming."

  15. Sarah J said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    With liver trees and juices for all.

  16. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    > the intrusive "under God." Any examples reflecting the latter?

    "under guard"

  17. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    …"under guard, invisible…"

  18. Eric W said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Another hymn is "Lead On, O Kingly Turtle."

    My father was a high school music teacher; he would ask students to write down the words to the Star Spangled Banner. Once he got this: "Oh say can you see by the donserly light."

  19. Brett said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    @Eric W: There's something about the cadence of The Anacreontic Song that does not quite work with the natural stress pattern of "dawn's early." When I was in elementary school, I also thought that "dawnserly" must have been a archaic or poetic term meaning, "related to or originating with dawn."

  20. John Lawler said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    There's a delightfully odd English word that describes this situation precisely: mumpsimus,

    In prayers, invocations, and other frequently-mumbled oral rituals, it's common, as pointed out, for misinterpretations and mispronunciations to flourish and persist. That's why Pāṇini had to invent phonetics, as all linguists know.

    A particular case of this phenomenon — or rather of an early attempt at its correction — was the word mumpsimus, a corruption of the Latin word sumpsimus in the liturgy of the Mass. There's a story — detailed in German Wikipedia, but not English, for some reason — about an untutored monk who claimed to prefer the old-fashioned mumpsimus to the new-fangled sumpsimus.

  21. George said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    There's the classic 'Blessed art thou a monk swimming" or the Christmas carol "A wain in a manger" (which you have to imagine with a northern Irish accent). Gosh, Language Log has descended to the 'Kids Say the Darndest Things' level and it's great!

  22. Jean-Pierre Metereau said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    A student once wrote about his "tight-unit" family.

  23. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    Unrelated side-note about the "broad stripes and bright stars" – the song was written c1812, when the US flag sported 15 stars for the then 15 states, and also 15 stripes (that very flag itself, from that night over Fort McHenry, is preserved by the Smithsonian).

    When the next state was admitted to the Union, it was realized that the stripes were becoming visually narrow and confusing and, frankly, a little bit silly. It was determined to continue the practice of adding a star for each state (at present, 50) but revert to the original 13 stripes (which is still used).

    The relevance?

    Francis Scott Key was extolling the proportionally narrowest "broad stripes" that we've ever used.

    It's not on topic, I just wanted to show off.

  24. Jim said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    "So who are these vnfremen who are licensed to sail with merchandeise"

    Rob, references to Unfremen usually are about Harkonnens or other off-worlders.

  25. D-AW said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    From /Ramona the Pest/ by Beverly Cleary, 1968:

    "Here was an opportunity for Ramona to show off her new kindergarten knowledge. 'Why don't you turn on the dawnzer?' she asked, proud of her new word.
    Beezus looked up from her book. 'What are you talking about?' she asked Ramona. 'What's a dawnzer?'
    Ramona was scornful. 'Silly. Everybody knows what a dawnzer is.'
    'I don't,' said Mr. Quimby, who had been reading the evening paper. 'What's a dawnzer?'
    'A lamp,' said Ramona. 'It gives a lee light. We sing about it every morning in kindergarten.'

  26. Laura said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

    Sorry for being a bit OT, but mondegreens got into Only Connect (the best quiz show on (British) TV, shown on BBC's 'intellectual' channel BBC4) this week. The idea is you have to find the link between phrases, and they were 'Sue Lawley', 'Gladly my cross-eyed bear', 'Ireland's industry', and 'Excuse me while I kiss this guy'. Naturally, a LL reader could guess it immediately, but now the nation (well, the minuscule portion of it that watches BBC4) knows the term 'mondegreen'. Victoria Coren, the presenter, introduced the word as though she was fairly sure no one would already know it, despite the target audience being pretty knowledgeable (the show prides itself on being for smartarses).

  27. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 2:03 pm


    Thanks for that illuminating historical commentary on the origins of the 'stars-and -stripes', and their shifting configurations over time.

    I Do stand corrected on the flag "streaming", as you earlier pointed out, versus my erroneous, "waving".

    Having lived here in the U.S. for quite a spell, and watched innumerable sports events where the Star Spangled Banner
    is sung prior to most 'contests' at hand, I've kind of prided myself over the years in being able to sing a pretty fair, on-tune, and with-feeling, National Anthem….. even hitting those difficult high register notes, and usually not screwing up the words. (It still gives me emotional chills and I'm not even a home-grown American.)

    I actually have this bucket-list fantasy of singing the 'Banner' at the opening of a local L.A. Dodgers' game. (I think I'd do a much better job than Roseanne Barr, at any rate.)

    I guess we can chalk up my earlier "waving" for "streaming" to one of those awkward senior brain-farts moments. HA! (I knew I should have sung out those first few lines before posting my comment. Oh well.)

    So chalk it up

  28. boris said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

    Re: schafka: that doesn't mean legend. It's a type of dog. I'm not familiar with the hymn in question, but was it skazka (folk/fairy tale) perhaps?

  29. Dan Lufkin said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    Eskimo questions, Italian allies.

  30. DEP said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    OK, one more.
    During mass, my brothers and I were sure the priest was saying "It ain't no sin to cuss."
    Had to Google it to find out he was saying, "Et ne nos inducas …"

  31. Mr Fnortner said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    And don't overlook the portly friar, Round John Virgin, from Silent Night…

    Surely there's enough leeway for a little politics here. Is no one to comment on it's like a prayer to the flag?

  32. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    @Boris >skazka (folk/fairy tale) perhaps

    Perhaps, I was told this in early 90's and it's a wonder that I remember that the conversation even occurred.

    If it turned out to be the Peruvian Navy and Mark Twain, I would not be entirely shocked.

  33. Elise said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

    A very logical revision to "God bless America" changes "Through the night with a light from above" to "Through the night with a light from a bulb."

  34. L said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

    @ Alex –

    Never having met you and never having heard you sing, I am nevertheless entirely confident that you could do better than Roseanne, even if had you that same brain-fart while singing it… even if you farted while singing it… or instead of… I'm getting another kind of chill just thinking about her rendition. She rendered it like chicken fat.

    Rusty Staub, who was frequently a member of the late Montreal Expos and frequently a member of the New York Mets (and every trade was a lousy trade) used to stand and salute for both anthems when they played each other, and sometimes he'd take the microphone and sing them, of course singing the French version/verse of O Canada.

    As a singer, Le Grande Orange was a damn fine ballplayer.

    I always like it when a local Scout Troop or elementary school class sings it. They always suck, but they're so damn cute.

  35. Henry IX said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

    Don't forget Pontius the pilot. He was at the controls for the flight into Egypt.

  36. David Morris said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

    The Australian national anthem has the line "Our home is girt by sea", which various people complain is silly, but no-one has been able to suggest a viable alternative.
    When I was in Korea, one lesson around the time of Australia Day finished early, so as a filler I recited the words and got the students to write it down. I thought "Our home is great, you see" was a reasonable attempt.

  37. Rubrick said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

    LL staffer Geoff Nunberg had an excellent piece on the opacity of the Pledge on NPR:

  38. Rebecca said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

    My mom, growing up in the Shirley Temple era, was both flattered and creeped out at the idea that some mysterious little girls, Shirley Goodness and Mercy, we're going to be following her around for the rest of her life.

  39. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

    @David Morris,

    First time I've heard the line from the Aussie national anthem, "Our home is girt by the sea".

    I'm purely guessing here, but I would think that Australia, being an island continent, completely surrounded by ocean, "girt" is kind of a shortened form of "girth", suggestive of the sea waters totally wrapping around, or enveloping the vast continental land mass.

    Perhaps the verb "gird" would have worked just as well, since it connotes the similar notion of wrapping around, as in the common expression, 'to gird ones loins', an arcane description of preparing for battle, or an upcoming physical challenge—figuratively speaking, the action of donning one's armor, or battle-dress. (For me, "gird" sounds just as odd as "girt".)


    I just pulled Roseanne Barr's embarrassingly horrendous rendition of our anthem out of my butt crack (sorry for the indelicacy, there), as the very nadir of memorable celebrity 'Banner' public performances. (Hardly much of a 'bar', or standard to surpass. Pun intended.)

    Inarguably, at the opposite end of the vocal spectrum, at the very zenith of 'Star-Spangled-Banner' performances had to be by the late, great Whitney Houston; I believe at a Super Bowl opening ceremony, back in her glorious prime.

    That young gal set loose a mass flood of tears of pride-of-flag-and-country clear across America (and the globe) that SB Sunday, w/ her rousing, perfectly-pitched and exquisitely phrased interpretation of our anthem, basically cementing, for all time, her legendary status as one of the greatest female pop vocalists, ever.

    So sad to see Whitney pass at such a relatively young age, and in such a tragic fashion. She left us w/ so much of her music to treasure. Ironically, by negative example, she left us a cautionary tale of perhaps taking her huge successes somewhat for granted, and often succumbing to the darker, more self-destructive demons that sadly haunted her throughout her adult life.

    L, I liked the backhanded diplomatic fashion in which you subtly dissed carrot-topped Rusty Staub's singing talents w/ your , "As a singer, Le Grand Orange was a damn fine ballplayer."

    As I recall, he was a real fun-loving, upbeat character, on and off the playing field, who really embraced his time w/ the now defunct Expos w/ sheer gusto, and the Montreal ball fans reciprocated his affection for them, in spades. Or maybe, in Rusty's case, that should be HEARTS?

  40. Thomas Thurman said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    Isn't "girt" actually the past participle of "gird"? Like "And Astur of the fourfold shield / girt with the brand none else may wield", or "girt with a boyish garb for boyish task"?

  41. Thomas Thurman said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    Rob P.: Since you asked for context, here's the entry in question in full:

  42. Brett said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

    @Thomas Thurman: It's a past participle, but not the first one that would come to mind. In my idiolect, "girded" is the natural choice (as in, "His father's sword he hath girded on"). However, even so, "Our home is girt by sea," is to me instantly comprehensible, just very old-fashioned sounding.

  43. Elizabeth said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

    I remember wondering who "Richard Stands" was when learning the pledge. I also misheard indivisible as "invisible" (which also confused me a bit).

  44. David Fried said,

    September 14, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    OK, can't resist. My son, when he was about nine, once asked me "Dad, who's Eustace?" "What do you mean?" "You know, Eustace. Like 'Eustace, we've got a problem.'"

    Proving, I guess, that "Houston, we have a problem" has become a mere proverb.

  45. Ken said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 12:02 am

    Reminds me of Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby thinking it was "The Dawnser Song" about lamps named Dawnsers that gave out "lee light".

  46. Xmun said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 2:56 am

    @Alex McCrae: "Yes, I dare say, many a José standing on Mexican soil, aspiring to give he and his family a better life in the U.S . . ."

    Him, Alex, him. Accusative case. Direct object of "give". For some reason the use of the nominative in such contexts is becoming more and more prevalent (or so it seems to me), and this can only mean that the future of our civilization is in peril.

  47. Mal in China said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 4:02 am

    @David Fried

    There's a difference between mishearing something, and a changed statement that owes more to Hollywood than historical accuracy.

    In the film Apollo 13, the line was altered and has now entered popuar culture. Astronaut Jack Swigert's famous statement: "Houston, we've had a problem" became, "Houston, we have a problem".

    SOURCE: Eric Jones; Test Division – Apollo Spacecraft Program Office (1970-04). "Apollo 13 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription" (PDF). NASA. p. 160 ( from Wikipedia).

  48. L said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    @Xmun – It's the end of the world as we know it. Of course that happens every nanosecond anyhow.

    @Mal – Whitney Houston's performance has always struck me as a little bit too jingoistic… and nevertheless it sends the good kind of shivers up my spine, back down, twice around my head and out to both hands. It is simply that good. But even that pales before the instrumental version by Jimi Hendrix. (Music is the universal language, so I'm still officially on-topic.) Re the "damn fine ballplayer" (which he absolutely was, and yes, you're remembering him correctly – it is why, in NY, in the home uniform, as an American citizen, he made a point to honor the Maple Leaf, part of his eternal bond with the Montreal fans, and the NY fans loved him all the more for it.). But the expression is not mine – I can't recall who was pitching when I stole it, but it isn't mine.

  49. L said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    @Xmun – It's the end of the world as we know it. Of course that happens every nanosecond anyhow.

    @Mal – Whitney Houston's performance has always struck me as a little bit too jingoistic… and nevertheless it sends the good kind of shivers up my spine, back down, twice around my head and out to both hands. It is simply that good. But even that pales before the instrumental version by Jimi Hendrix. (Music is the universal language, so I'm still officially on-topic.) Re the "damn fine ballplayer" (which he absolutely was, and yes, you're remembering him correctly – it is why, in NY, in the home uniform, as an American citizen, he made a point to honor the Maple Leaf, part of his eternal bond with the Montreal fans, and the NY fans loved him all the more for it.). But the expression is not mine – I can't recall who was pitching when I stole it, but it isn't mine.

  50. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Mr. Fnortner: the lawsuits from the 1930's and '40's that ultimately led to the conclusion that students in public schools had a constitutional right not to be compelled to say the Pledge arose precisely because Sophia's perception that it was "like a prayer" was not original to her. Specifically, the Jehovah's Witnesses took the view that the Pledge violated the prohibition against idol worship contained in the Ten Commandments. Whether any of these mondegreenish rewrites of the text could have allayed those concerns is afaik not an issue that was addressed in the courts . . .

  51. L said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    >Don't forget Pontius the pilot. He was at the controls for the flight
    > into Egypt.

    It's been said that when the Israeli Air Force launches a surprise strike, the coded order transmitted to the pilot is "Torah! Torah! Torah!"

  52. Brett said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

    @J. W. Brewer: And Justice Jackson framed the famous Supreme Court opinion by making it clear that the distinction between religious or other devotions was blurry at best: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

  53. Bob said,

    September 15, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

    L mentioned the Jewish Grace after Meals intro "rabosai/rabotai nevarekh". The version I knew was "rub my thigh with a rake" — nicely capturing the s/t alternation with th.

  54. maidhc said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 3:03 am

    The comic "Life in Hell" did one of those parody pledges — "jugs of wine for owls" and so on. But someone gave me a copy of that collection translated into Finnish, and sure enough there is that same strip in Finnish.

    I would really like to know how the joke got translated. Perhaps it is a joke on something Finnish schoolchildren have to recite?

    This topic has come up before but I didn't get an answer, so I don't want to type the whole thing in again unless I know there is some Finnish-speaking person who will look at the question.

  55. maidhc said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 3:07 am

    I heard a story that Townsville, Queensland, got tired of people claiming that it had a redundant name and considered changing its name to Girt so it would get mentioned every time Australians sang the national anthem.

  56. maidhc said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 3:20 am

    The Pledge of Allegiance not only did not have "under God" in it originally, but it was originally "liberty, equality and justice for all". "Equality" was removed in the hope that the southern states would adopt it.

    This was a mistaken hope. I attended public school in North Carolina for three years, and never once did we sing "The Star Spangled Banner" or pledge allegiance to the accursed Yankee flag.

    We didn't sing "Dixie" in school, but that was what the television stations played when they went off the air.

  57. L said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 9:56 am

    @Bob and to whom it may concern, shana tovah. Love your version!

    @To whom it doesn't concern, yes, we actually sang it that way at the children's table. The adults pretended not to notice.

  58. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 10:26 am


    Yesterday, I believe you were intending your comments re/ the late great ballplayer-average-vocalist, Rusty Staub, plus your take on Whitney Houston's rendition of her Super Bowl 'Banner' performance, for yours truly. But for some reason you directed your comments to blogger Mai. No biggie.

    Perhaps you saw the word "Houston" in Mai's earlier post, where she was commenting on the occasional public's mishearing of "Houston" when the folks at NASA were communicating w/ astronauts in orbit, i.e., the "Houston, we've had a problem ", bit, and "Houston" just reflexively registered 'Whitney Houston' in your noggin? Just a thought.

    I agree, L, that Hendrix's acoustic version of our anthem was far-and-away the ultimate, superb interpretation—a truly visceral, mind-blowing performance that left the audience in both stunned awe and pure elation.

    For me, Hendrix, on his amped-up electric guitar, was the equivalent of Picasso on canvas. Both took us to places and states of mind and soul where we had never been before, and had never even imagined.

    @Xmun. Mea culpa, re/ my use of "he" rather than the grammatically correct "him", in my earlier post, referencing my hypothetical 'universal' José character.

    I trust your cautionary closing note re/ the gravity of my faux pas being indicative of some kind of bell-weather, or portent of the demise of our civilization as we know it (I'm paraphrasing here), was expressed w/ tongue firmly planted-in-cheek?

    If not, I wish you and your legion of petty peevers a glorious rapture, swept up to that great halcyon alternative universe where established earthly rules of grammar, syntax, and the like are NEVER, EVER broken; whilst us wayward 'sinners' remain eternally condemned, doomed to returning to a state of Tower of Babel-redux, where all hell has broken loose, and speaking in tongues has become the rule of the day.

    Oh the humanity!

  59. Ken Novak said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    Ramona's "dawnzer" reminded me that I suddenly understood what Jack Bruce's "Sunshine of Your Love" was Really About when I learned that Great Britain had no Dawnser Prize.

  60. L said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

    @Alex (and at Mai) – it's worse than that. I tried for a pun about Whitney Houston and the Apollo message, and couldn't get one I liked. It's the blessing and curse of ADHD, I'm working with a two-track mind.

  61. L said,

    September 16, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

    @Alex – or you can understand that the Tower of Babel story offers confusion of the languages as a fix to the situation and a potential path OUT of sin.

    'Cuz that's what it claims is happening… it's a punishment intended to head off unacceptable behavior. It's a mindbender, but it claims that if all people communicated freely and cooperated, we'd probably be so powerful that collectively we'd just go and ruin everything – we'd have godlike powers and we'd abuse them.

    It's an interesting take, whatever your ideas about the authorship, whatever your ideas about global warming, etc etc etc.

    The rest of us sinners ARE still in the post-Tower-Of-Babel world, just a few years more post than you probably meant. The purists can try to go back to the period prior all they like, but until they have time travel, I'm not expecting much.

    On the other hand, if they do eventually obtain time travel, we'll all have to rethink "until" and "expecting" and "eventually" anyhow.

    The best part of time travel is that it demands new verb tenses, and that willon on haven drive the purists nuts.

  62. BlueLoom said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    I don't know about Rusty Staub as either a singer or ballplayer (tho I vaguely remember the name from my childhood), but the Montreal Expos live on as the Washington Nationals and will most probably be in the playoffs this year.

    Yeah, yeah, way off topic from eggcorns, but that's the way we baseball fans are.

  63. Iconoclast said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    I realize that this is a linguistics list and not a politics list, but it's interesting that there's not a single aside so far mentioning how sick it is to subject children to the Orwellian-fascist ritual of "talking/praying" to a flag in the morning. I guess there's some comfort to be taken in the fact that so many kids don't seem to have a clue of what it is their pledging. (Though not enough comfort, given how many of them turn out to be entirely uncritical, hyperpatriotic flag wavers as adults.)

  64. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 2:03 pm


    No worries re/ the unwitting misdirecting of your "Houston" reply. (We don't have lift-off, Whitney…… I mean, Houston!)

    L, as you put it so well, (if i could paraphrase here), your unpredictable "two-tracked mind" merely decided to take a leave of absence, for a short spell. HA!

    Your more amplified historical take on the significance of the Tower of Babel, w/ the seemingly counterintuitive Biblical notion of God destroying the original one-tongued civilization, and creating a multi-lingual, 'babbling' culture, and this action being a good (countering sin) thing, was illuminating for me.

    In my earlier, slightly tongue-in-cheek post re/ the arch-prescriptivist 'rapture' event, I was kind of loosely citing the advent of a newfangled Tower of Babel scenario to try to set an apocalyptic tone, where us "sinners' (more or less, the descriptivist camp— the 'unchosen' ones), if you will, are left behind to linguistically muddle about, w/ no set rules, or defined principles to guide us, going forward. Suggesting that a state of mass gibberish will ensue. (I'm kidding.)

    Clearly, I'm solidly in the 'sinners' camp.

    Wouldn't you know it, there's always some smart-ass nimrod* out there trying to put a damper on things.

    *Of course, Nimrod, the Biblical monarchial personage who played a most pivotal role in the unfolding Tower of Babel saga.

  65. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 3:49 pm



    As an admitted once totally obsessed kid-fanatic of major league baseball, going way back to when the voluble Dizzy Dean and Peewee Reese were announcing televised games; and likely after the L.A. Dodgers' World Series win in '89* (?) and going forward, and now more of a fair-weather, casual ball fan, I still am aware that there are some very interesting playoff-run scenarios brewing in both leagues these days.

    In the American League play-downs, probably one of the unlikeliest winning teams this season are the scrappy, perennially-hapless Baltimore Orioles, who apparently have mustered a record-breaking number of one-run victories, and a slew of extra-inning wins, thus far this year.

    (They say the Oriole fans of Charm City are waxing nostalgic, harkening back to those halcyon days when Cal Ripken Jr. was racking up all those Golden Glove awards, and hoping for a Baltimore miracle come October.)

    Of course, the usually super-dominating Yankees have fallen on hard times, and will likely just manage to eke out a playoff wild-card.

    Hmm… who was that wise baseball sage who claimed that the fortunes of teams are usually cyclical in nature, and it's very difficult to sustain dynastic dominance in the game today? (Not George Steinbrenner. HA!)

    Although the Yanks franchise looked the part for oh-so-many years.

    Here in my adopted hometown of L.A., the Dodgers appeared to be cruising along w/ a very respectable winning average for the first half of the schedule; even w/ the added distraction of the big, looming question mark, i.e., who would ultimately be the new owner(s) of the team?

    Then, when they finally booted now-former sleaze-ball owner Frank McCord and his Mrs. to the dugout, and Magic Johnson & Co. took the ownership reins, some major big-player money deals soon went down w/ the feckless Red Sox. On paper, the move looked like a win-win for both the Dodger, and Red Sox franchises.

    Then, admittedly hamstrung by a series of untimely key injuries, some major individual player hitting slumps, and a depleted pitching roster, The Boys in Blue, ironically, are now fighting for a measly wild-card spot in the NL rush to the wire, w/ a mere 15 games left on their schedule. (Ugh!)

    Of course, our Angels in that 'other' league, haven't really fulfilled their full potential this year, even though slugger Albert Pujols, who inexplicably started off very poorly for his new team in the spring, seems to have finally found his comfortable hitting groove, perhaps just in time for the upcoming playoffs. We shall see.

    Well, they just called a balk on me, so I'm out of here.

    So long to the peanuts-and-crackerjacks, and let's get back to those pesky, inedible eggcorns, shall we.

    *I definitely know the Dodgers won it all in '81 when Fernanado-mania had swept this town like a major tsunami of mass adoration for this most likable, charismatic, new-kid-in-town.

    Didn't hurt that he was a young, slightly chubby native Mexican-born kid, who seemed to always be looking up to the heavens when he went into his signature pitching windup; as if he were somehow summoning God Almighty to give him just that little touch of the divine on each-and-every throw.

    Fernando's pitching that rookie season WAS nothing short of divine. The Dodgers were truly blessed during that winning season of '81.

  66. L said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    Strange that the Montreal Expos, the first non-US MLB ballclub, should end up in Washington, of all places. But no stranger, perhaps, than the Trolley Dodgers in LA…

    @Alex: I can sin in one language or many; and the only difference is that I find it harder to blaspheme in languages where I am less fluent. For example, I speak no Mandarin at all, and thus cannot muster even a decent taking in vain or a halfway respectable false witness in Mandarin.

    But apparently Mandarin is sucking up English like the Mets suck up has-beens and never-will-bes, so perhaps that problem will, in time, solve itself.

  67. L said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    @Iconoclast –

    Speaking only for myself, I got tired of the issue when we stopped having to recite it in sixth grade or so. By then a couple of kids weren't saying it at all, a few more were saluting but not saying it, a couple were saying it but omitting "under God" and basically it had all become a Required Farce.

    At the moment that a thing becomes optional, it is no longer totalitarian, which I take to be part of the sense in which you use "Orwellian." It can still be perverse, newspeaky, and inappropriate in all kinds of ways, but if you can simply opt out of it, it is no longer totalitarian.

    If you're wondering, I used to say the first part, sort of mumble and daydream, and finish strong on "liberty and justice for all" because I really liked that part, because it meant I could finally sit down.

    I recall trying very hard to decode it, and in the fashion of the time I objected to pledging allegiance to a bunch of cloth. I would then, and would now, proudly swear to my undying allegiance to the nation, the people, and the Constitution. I like the flag well enough, mind you, but I owe no loyalty to pretty fabric.

    For a while I tried omitting "the flag and" but "the nation for which is stands" had no referent. But mostly I found that the teacher stopped listening around there someplace. A world in which Big Brother doesn't pay a whole of attention is something, but not something Orwellian.

  68. L said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    …or rather (can we add an edit function?) I would omit "the flag of" leaving the very unsatisfactory "I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the nation for which it stands…." which implied that the USA stands for some unidentified nation… possibly itself… and then I settled upon "oh the hell with it."

  69. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 17, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    As noted earlier in the thread (in the quote from Justice Jackson), the right to opt out of saying the pledge in a US public-school context has been established since 1943, at which time the adjective "Orwellian" had I assume not even entered the lexicon. By contrast, my older daughter had no right to opt out of her fourth-grade teacher's contestable opinion that the "Oxford comma" was mandatory (although the teacher was nice enough to tell the students that not everyone else in the English-speaking world held the same view on the subject; nonetheless, in written work submitted in her classroom failure to observe the rule would have negative consequences on ones grade).

  70. ajay said,

    September 18, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    "I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the nation for which it stands…."

    Sounds a bit Borgesian/Ecoish..

    "I pledge allegiance to this 1:1 map of the United States of America and to the entity of which it is a necessarily imperfect representation…"

  71. L said,

    September 18, 2012 @ 9:39 am

    @ajay: The song's name is Haddock's Eyes.

  72. L said,

    September 18, 2012 @ 9:40 am

    ",,, IS CALLED…."


  73. Rodger C said,

    September 18, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    I pledge allegiance to the flag
    Among the heather bright,
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars
    In the silent night.

  74. Berfal said,

    September 18, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

    Curious how many are old enough to remember Walt Kelly's comic strip "Pogo" and its famous (in its day) mangling of the carol "Deck the Halls", to wit:

    "Deck us all in Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
    Nora's freezing on the trolley, swaller dollar cauliflower alleygaroo!
    Don't we know archaic barrel, Lullaby, Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
    Trolley Molly don't love Harold, boola, boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!"

  75. Rodger C said,

    September 19, 2012 @ 9:47 am

    "Good King Sauerkraut, look out! All your feet's uneven!"

  76. Emily Silgard said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    From my friend's son:
    "Mom, is it the priest that bathtizes you at church?"

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