Thesis Snow Aye Twos Tart Able Log
For those of you unfamiliar with this little orange box of mind-gnarling cards, Mad Gab is a game for at least two players, usually more, broken into teams. You flash a card, and one team reads the words on it aloud and tries to guess what it says.
The trick is that each card has a bunch of recognizable words already on it, but when they’re spoken together, they’ll form another word or phrase that isn’t immediately clear. For example, a card might read:
Eighty Fin Sat Earn He
Bed Chirp Autumn Doll Her
(Go ahead. Read them aloud. They don’t work subvocally.)
So the team has to recognize the sounds as “a defense attorney” and “bet your bottom dollar.”
Why it’s fun
Mad Gab works because as we read the puzzle and try to reassemble it, our mind attaches to the words we see in that order. Even as we’re pronouncing the (usually) correct phonemes, or individual sounds, our brains get stuck on what we see, not on what we hear.
And that means that the team not guessing gets to laugh at you while you stammer over a very common phrase while you sound like you’ve got dysprosody and look like you’re four-days stopped up.
(Stop laughing … lots of people play linguistic drinking games!)
This little gem has got a linguistic term.
Mad Gab creates a puzzle out of mondegreens, which basically is a misinterpretation of a phrase. It’s pretty common, though almost no one knows the formal name (unless you get the Word of The Day from Dictionary.com). For example, here are a few famous mondegreens:
- ’Scuse me while I kiss this guy (From Jimi Hendrix’s “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”)
- There’s a bathroom on the right (Credence Clearwater Revival’s “There’s a bad moon on the rise”)
- The ants are my friends … (Bob Dylan’s “The answer, my friends …”)
Matt Groening created an animated special apparently inspired by mondegreens with Olive, the Other Reindeer (You can see where that one came from, right?) that included characters with names like Round John Virgin (think of “Silent Night”) and Richard Stands (say the American Pledge of Allegiance).
Mad Gab takes advantage of reverse mondegreens. It starts with nonsense and asks you to puzzle out what it really means. Much like the song “Mairzy Doats.”
Mondegreen is a mondegreen
There’s an old Scottish ballad called “The Bonny Earl O’Moray” that goes:
Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands,
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl O’ Moray
And layd him on the green.
According to dictionary.com, American writer Sylvia Wright interpreted the last line as “And Lady Mondegreen,” and then coined the phrase in an essay published in Harper’s Magazine.
Another funny thing about Mad Gab
It doesn’t always work with different accents. Once, when playing with an Australian friend, he was given the puzzle:
Urine Ex Ton Mile Hissed*
Much to his frustration, he simply could not guess the right answer. But that’s because apparently in Melbourne, urine is pronounced “yur-INE” and not “YUR-in.”
Made all the difference in the world.
So, if you’ve got a minute, check out Mad Gab for yourself. It’s fun at parties, but you can also play online here.
Then, if you’ve got another minute, let me know in the comments what other mondegreens you’ve found.
*You’re next on my list.