Do you always hear everything correctly? Even with perfect hearing it is easy to mishear or misunderstand something. Often,despite having good hearing, I have trouble making out what actors say in a film and am frequently asking, ‘What did he/she say?’ or rewinding the film to run that bit through again. I don’t have that facility in the cinema or theatre, of course.
The other week, Coco, who is three years old, asked me why I was carrying my ‘noculars’. That’s what she thought my binoculars were called. To her young ears, that’s what she thought she had heard as that word obviously had not appeared in her vocabulary before. Later, she also told me quite emphatically, ‘Bluebells are blue but daffodillys are lellow.’ Now, she is an exceptionally bright little girl and a credit to her parents so it’s easy to assume that throughout the world people are constantly being misunderstood.
Very young children learn the language by hearing others speak. However, they don’t always seem to hear it correctly, do they? Perhaps its our diction? Personally, I love the words made up by children and still use certain phrases my children used long ago when little. I expect many other parents do that too….or am I the only weird one?
There are plenty of examples of misheard words in song lyrics. Years ago I remember many people thought Desmond Dekker was singing ‘My ears are alight’ in his song ‘The Israelites’. Or how about Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with the line that sounds like ‘Spare him his life for his pork sausages’?
So often, we can take offence at things we think people say instead of what is actually said. We attribute thoughts and feelings to people inaccurately. The written word is particularly dangerous, particularly now we have the internet. (Political manifestos beware.) Once something is out there it can spread faster than butter on hot toast (yum) and is difficult to withdraw. I am often amazed by what I read on Facebook or other sites and wonder whether the author has even stopped to read again what they have written before posting. Comments on FB can sometimes be misconstrued. You cannot hear the inflection in the voice or see the twinkle in the eye. The ubiquitous LOL doesn’t always cut it.
With Easter just gone I expect many will have recently heard the words Jesus said on the Cross, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani’ ( ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’) The bystanders there thought he was calling on Elijah and some thought he had given up. In fact it is more than probable that He was reciting the words of Psalm 22 written hundreds of years before, which starts with those words and goes on to describe the position of someone in Jesus’ situation on the Cross. It is a terrible description of suffering but in the last verses there is mention of a glorious victory. It may have been finished, but it was not all over.
Therefore, I like to believe that Jesus was using a sort of code to lift the spirits of his followers. The Jews had a verbal tradition. The Psalms were not numbered then so He had to say the first lines and most people would know what Psalm to which he referred. Some of course misheard, or preferred to mishear it,
Anyway, the election debates continue and It’s interesting to note how many times a politician starts to answer a question with, ‘I’m glad you asked that question’ or ‘That’s a good question’ or ‘Ah, but the real question is…’ before continuing to not actually answer the question but spout some rehearsed Party Policy rhetoric. Do they deliberately mishear or are they just buying time to formulate an answer to something they dare not answer truthfully?
So, if you hear that the Green Party are set to replace the Royals with locally sourced, organically grown vegetables, don’t be too quick to judge them, You might just have misheard.