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Category: Opinion & Reader Forum

’Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Today’s column is about mondegreens. These are not vegetables. “Mondegreen” is the term for a misheard lyric.
The other day, I bought a CD of  ’60s hits and found myself singing along in the car with Percy Sledge: “When a maaaan loves a wal-nut . . . .”
I never actually thought that’s what Sledge was saying (I didn’t!).   But “When a Man Loves a Walnut” is the title of a favorite book, a hilarious collection of misheard lyrics compiled by author Gavin Edwards.
I used to have one of the book’s illustrations posted over my desk. It showed a covey of cute little owls upchucking on a mattress, this, to portray a mondegreen from “Help Me, Rhonda.”
What the Beach Boys sang was, “Well since she put me down, I’ve been out doin’ in my head….”
What some people heard was: “Well since she put me down, there’ve been owls pukin’ in my bed.”
Hey. I didn’t say the mondegreen had to make sense. Although some do.

On a website devoted to misheard lyrics,  www.kissthisguy.com, there’s a post from a Canadian woman who notes that her 4-year-old son thought their national anthem ended not with “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” but “Oh Canada, we stand on cars and freeze.”

Not that farfetched.
As for our own anthem, consider “. . . Pilgrims bursting in air.”
Then we have classic Dylan: “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, the ants are a-blowin’ in the wind.”
Or Simon and Garfunkel: “Captain Picard’s on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Patsy Cline: “I call for pizzas.”
Johnny Cash: “I’m stuck in a wholesome prison.”
Or U2, “Where the sheeps have lo mein.”
Titles can also be misheard.

I was in a NYC pub where someone asked that the band play Paul McCartney’s “Mulligan’s Tired.”
As for why “mondegreen,” here’s the story: The term dates to the 1950s and was coined in an essay by author Sylvia Wright, who told of how, as a child, she had misheard a line in an old Scottish ballad, “The Bonny Earl o’ Murray.”
The song begins:

Ye highlands and ye lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray,
And laid him on the green.
She thought it referred to a double murder: “They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray and Lady Mondegreen.”
Considering that the ballad is written partially in Scottish dialect, I’m surprised that’s all she misheard.

— Karen Zautyk

P.S. One free copy of The Observer to the first person (NOT from the Woodstock generation) who can identify the headline on this column. No googling!
P.P.S. On another matter entirely: During this sultry weather, please provide a dish of water for the wild birds. The poor things are hopping around with their beaks open. Birds get thirsty, too.

Advice about (and for) carjackers

In light of the report of two “bump and run” carjackings in Kearny within 24 hours [see p. 1 story), I decided to do a little research on the crime. Like, what do you do if you get “bumped” yourself?
One officer we spoke to suggested that, rather than getting out of your vehicle,  you drive slowly to a gas station or some other well-lit place where there are plenty of people.
And call 911.
Surfing the web, we found an abundance of info on the Pittsburgh Police Department site, which notes: “Most carjackings happen in as little as 15 seconds, when the thief (generally armed) suddenly appears and demands that the driver surrender the car.”
Fifteen seconds!
It also notes: “The FBI reports that the primary motives for carjacking are to secure transportation . . . to commit another crime, such as drug trafficking.”  Which likely explains why the two Kearny vehicles were so quickly abandoned: The culprits may have  used them for  some other felony and then dumped them.
The Pittsburgh cops warn that carjackers “attack motorists at traffic lights  [and stop signs], gas stations, parking lots, fast food drive-thrus and in other areas where they are stopped or exiting their vehicles.”
And, as happened in Kearny: “. . . thieves in one car pull up behind an unsuspecting driver and bump the driver’s car. When the driver gets out to inspect the damage, the thieves forcibly take control of the car.”
The Pa. police advise always locking your car doors and suggest driving in the center lane on highways to reduce  chances of becoming a bump-and-run victim. But I wonder: In the dead of night, when traffic is light, would that really matter?
In any case, we need to note that the Internet offers advice not merely to potential victims. We also found: What to Do If You Are Caught Carjacking. This is, of course, from the website of a lawyer.
He begins a July 4 blog post by noting that “some people have not had such a good weekend so far” and details a gunpoint carjacking/abduction in his neck of the woods. He then offers: “If you have ever been charged with robbery, burglary, or theft (especially carjacking), you need a criminal defense lawyer who’s going to be aggressive when fighting for your legal rights. [Yada, yada, yada.] Have a fun and safe holiday.”
No, you can’t make this stuff up.
— Karen Zautyk

P.S.  At the bottom of the blog is a comment  from a woman who calls the lawyer’s post “opportunistic and despicable” and who asks, “Why don’t you just say, ‘Go ahead and rob and terrorize victims to your heart’s content. I’m here to defend you’?”
Her name is Karen.
It wasn’t me. Although …

Sitting in judgment

Some years ago, I was a juror on a criminal case in New York City. There were heated arguments during deliberations. Every vote we took was 10 to 2. We ended up being sequestered overnight, continued the debate in the morning, and finally reached a unanimous verdict.
“Not guilty.”
This, even though some of us figured the defendant was guilty of something.
The problem was, the prosecution presented a lousy case. The state left us with more questions than answers, and no answers at all that added up to a conviction. It did not prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In good conscience, we could not convict on the charges before us.
A few of us figured the guy would end up incarcerated sooner or later. He had an odd and unforgettable name, and last week I Googled it and discovered that, sure enough, he was later found guilty in another criminal case and landed in prison.  Justice delayed is not always justice denied.
I’m recalling all this, of course, because of the Casey Anthony verdict, and you are by now probably thinking I agree with it.
No. I do not.
Unlike the case on which I sat, the prosecution in  Florida did, to my mind, a superb job.
“But it was all circumstantial,” is the argument. And so? Consider that it could hardly have been otherwise. Because of the delay in learning that Caylee Anthony was, indeed, missing. (And just what/who deliberately caused that delay?) And then all the time to find the by-then-disintegrated remains.
Cases can be decided on circumstantial evidence, and in this one I believe the evidence was powerful. Trials do not always involve unchallengeable forensics, despite what our TV-crime-show culture would have us believe.
Every time I hear the “circumstantial” comment, I think of the quote from Thoreau: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
In Orlando, there was an overwhelming odor of trout.
There’s another quote, one which I have heard often (and in various versions) in the last few days: “It is better that 10 guilty men go free than to incarcerate one innocent man.”
A pronouncement by 18th century British jurist Sir William Blackstone, the concept is one of the cornerstones of our American system of justice.
Reading up on this, I came across an intriguing response to Blackstone: “Better for whom?”
That got me thinking, and I have a modest proposal: If we so venerate Blackstone’s viewpoint, if that is truly how we balance the scales of justice, why bother to have criminal trials at all?  Just let everyone go. Why even risk a mistake in judgment?  Besides, since all suspects are innocent until proven guilty, the system would be freeing only innocent people, right?
Think of the money the government could save.
Talk amongst yourselves.
— Karen Zautyk

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher:
I am writing this letter in total disgust.
Like many of you, I live on a tight budget, so tight at the end of the month, I don’t meet my obligations. On the morning of July 8, 2011, I was driving down Kearny Avenue when a man stepped out into a crosswalk. And I got stopped like many others that morning and got a $200 ticket for not stopping – clearly a trap by the Kearny Police Department.
I find the entrapment insulting to the people of Kearny. If our police department has nothing more to do than give the hard-working people of Kearny tickets that were clearly set-up, then, maybe they need to concentrate more on the honest side of ticketing, like wrongfully overnight parking, double-parking, meter parking, etc. But to set ridiculous traps is just the bottom of the barrel for police work.
Just maybe our police department is over-staffed – time to cut the fat and stop picking on the good citizens of Kearny.

Anthony Zullo
Kearny

The voice of the turtle is heard in the land

By now, you likely have heard about the great turtle invasion at JFK Airport, but if you are in the dark, let me enlighten you.
Last week, a herd (flock? pack? pod?) of diamondback turtles caused flight delays when they crawled out of Jamaica Bay and crept across the runways, heading for nesting grounds on a beach on the other side.
On Wednesday alone, about 150 of the reptiles had to be retrieved from the tarmac and relocated by Port Authority workers, who rounded them up and eventually chauffeured them to the sands, where they (the turtles, not the PA workers) could lay their eggs. This apparently happens every summer.
My favorite description of the incident came from George Stephanopoulos, who called it a “sort of a slow-motion stampede.”
Personally, I am glad the PA is a quasi-autonomous agency, because if  Mayor Bloomberg had his way, I am certain he’d have ordered the creatures killed, as he did the Canada geese living near the airport. The geese reportedly will be served to the homeless. At least terrapin stew is not yet on the menu.
However, there is a bit more to this turtle saga.
Remember last week when told you about alien visitors living among us in human or animal form? I addressed the human-form variety, but not the other. I can now reveal that the turtles-heading-for-nests is just a cover story.
My sources tell me that what actually happened is this: A charter-flight UFO landed in the swamps near Jamaica Bay and all the passengers, disguised for their earthly visit as diamondbacks, got sick of waiting on line at customs and broke free, heading for the beach.
It’s understandable. Most of them were on 10-day discount packages (all-inclusive: meals, nest, turtle costume) and they didn’t want to waste time hanging around an airport.
These were just tourists, but other animal-form extraterrestrials have extended visas, or even permanent residency. Some have even become celebrities. Just about any night, you can see one on Craig Ferguson’s show: Secretariat. Trust me. The horse is an alien.
So is the rodent that lives on Donald Trump’s head.
And the Aflac duck.
And the little piggy that cries “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way home.
And Snuggle, the fabric-softener bear.
I’m sure you could name some others about which you have had suspicions.
Lassie?
Of course. What ordinary dog is smart enough to memorize a script? And in a foreign language, no less?
—Karen Zautyk

P.S. In response to last week’s column, a friend emailed me a story about UFOs being sighted the other day over central London. Her comment: “Hey, it looks like they got themselves a better travel agent!”

We’ve got mail

To the Publisher:
Who would have thunk? Meat and potatoes — basic staple of the American diet, now held responsible for our growing obesity epidemic.
A federally funded Harvard University analysis of data collected over 20 years from more than 120,000 Americans found that meat and potatoes were the main culprits in weight gain, while fruits, vegetables, and nuts prevented weight gain. The analysis was published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
So much for the meat industry’s claim of high-nutrient density for their product. It’s more like high weight density.
So, the next time the fast food clerk asks if “you want fries with that,” tell him to hold the greasy hamburger and give you a nice salad instead.

Kenneth Miller
Kearny

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a jellyfish!

According to at least one witness, an Unidentified Flying Object was reported over South Kearny the afternoon of Friday, June 17.
I know this because I get a Google alert every time the word “Kearny” appears on the web, and the other day up popped a story headlined “Disc-Shaped UFO Over South Kearny, New Jersey.”
Also a link to something called www.ufodigest.com, wherein you can find the entire article along with a (much too fuzzy) photo of the “spacecraft.” Envision a de-tentacled jellyfish.
According to the website, the witness was at work (place of employment not mentioned) when he (she?) and a co-worker saw the object.
They had gone outside at about 1:30 p.m. to watch the approaching thunderstorm when a bolt of lightning illuminated the thing in the sky.
The witness took a photo as the UFO traveled from south to north.
We tried to find a Kearny police report on the sighting, but apparently the unidentified witness did not file one.
Which brings us to a question: Why the flip not?
I mean, if I saw a UFO hovering over town, even down in the meadows, I would call 911, wouldn’t you? Suppose the thing landed? It could tie up Turnpike traffic for hours. The police should get some warning. As should Newark Airport.
Do not misunderstand. I am not making mock. I firmly believe there are aliens among us, as I have noted in this space before. As documented in the “Men in Black” films, they are here as guests and assume human (or animal) form during their visits
Some are obvious: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Larry King. But the majority are relatively inconspicuous and go about their daily lives disturbing no one.
I feel sorry for many of them, because they are not as bright as we have been led to believe. Sure, their civilization managed to develop spaceships that travel faster than the speed of light, but that doesn’t mean the creatures driving the ships have high intelligence.
Their ships, like our autos, were created generations ago, and as with our autos, many of the beings now behind the wheel are complete idiots.
I suspect a lot of the aliens don’t even have driver’s licenses.
They certainly don’t know how to use the GPS. If they did, the UFOs would be seen over Vegas or Times Square or someplace else of interest.
Instead the sightings are always out in  the boondocks. The farmlands of Iowa. The deserts of Arizona. The swamps of South Kearny.
Poor aliens.

They really need a new travel agent.

— Karen Zautyk

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher:
Dusty, the California “cat burglar” that has become famous for stealing more than 600 items from neighbors’ yards [see photo], may be the cutest “criminal” alive, but I encourage readers to keep their kitties out of trouble by keeping them indoors and allowing them outdoors only on a leash or in a fenced-in area, under supervision.
While Dusty’s neighbors seem to adore him and his kleptomaniac tendencies, not everyone is as gracious toward felines who frequent their property. Some cats have even been shot or poisoned by people who don’t want them in their yards or who get their kicks from abusing animals.
Other cats that are allowed to roam have become the victims of thieves themselves—stolen by dogfighters who use them as bait, or by “bunchers” who sell them to laboratories. And even the craftiest feline is defenseless against traffic and extreme weather.
For tips on keeping even the cleverest cat content indoors, visit www.PETA.org.

Lindsay Pollard-Post
The PETA Foundation
Norfolk, Va.

Must everything have a price tag?

This Sept. 11, one decade since the Twin Towers terror attack that killed 2,752 people, the World Trade Center Memorial will open at last at Ground Zero. On 9/11, only family members of the victims will have access, but the general public can start visiting on Sept. 12.
(Note: While construction continues at Ground Zero, Memorial visitors must make a reservation and obtain a pass.)
The Memorial is the above-ground portion of what is to be the city’s and the nation’s tribute to the dead. It will comprise reflecting pools marking the footprints of the towers, a garden of foliage and the names of the victims, and admission will be free.
Next year, however, when the World Trade Center Museum, located under the Memorial, opens, it could require a $25 admission fee, the New York City Council was told last week by the people who will operate it.
Twenty-five dollars? To visit what is basically a battleground — the place where the United States was attacked by a plague of cowards? To what is also the closest thing to a cemetery the WTC has?
There is no admission fee to Arlington or Gettysburg or the beaches at Normandy. Charging a fee should be unthinkable.
Read more »

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher:
USDA’s new MyPlate dietary logo illustrates graphically the shrinking role of meat and dairy products in our national diet. It replaces meat with a tofu loaf, and shunts dairy off the plate.
The new logo provides a fitting conclusion to a 30-year record of the Dietary Guidelines recommending replacement of animal products and other fatty foods in our diet with vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains (see www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines).
The recommendations reflect widespread concern with the growing epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other killer diseases.
Read more »