(A linguistic examination of silly Youtube videos)
Paraphasia is a subset of general aphasia. The latter term can describe a number of impairments to language ability resulting from neurological trauma or illness, such as blows to the head, strokes or tumours. The former word, paraphasia, refers more specifically to speech being superficially coherent but still fundamentally wrong in some way to everyone but the speaker, because of partial or total mispronunciation (e.g. “mispornuntiacion”, or “window” for “widow”, or vice versa), or due to varying degrees of word substitution (e.g. quasi-homophonic errors like “beg” instead of “bed”, or massive and incomprehensible errors like “wrestler” instead of “library”). Obviously all of these paraphasias can blur into what would generally be considered “normal” linguistic mistakes, i.e. mistakes not resulting from a medical condition, of which there are quite a few widely recognised types:
An eggcorn, which was named by linguist Geoffrey Pullum in 2003, is when a person creates a plausible (but wrong) interpretation of a word they know but don’t know how to pronounce, that they’ve misheard, or have heard more or less correctly but never seen written down. Pullum’s example is “egg corn” for “acorn”. These actually seem to be increasingly common on the internet. Wikipedia’s article on Eggcorns points out two that I’ve often seen myself online: “baited breath” and “ex-patriot”, which should be “bated breath” and “expatriate” respectively. Confusions of “bear” and “bare” are also very common, although these are probably for the most part spelling errors rather than full blown eggcorns, since I should imagine the majority of English speakers know that being bare and being a bear are different things even if they’re unsure of the correct spelling for each one.
Good examples of malapropisms come appropriately from the original Mrs Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s 18th century play The Rivals. Malaprop suggests that somebody be “illiterated” (obliterated) from memory, talks about “allegories” in the Nile (meaning alligators, although surely these would be crocodiles anyway…) and speaks of a “nice derangement” (arrangement).
Mondegreen is a less recent neologism, this time by Sylvia Wright in 1954, coined to describe a mishearing that completely changes the original phrase’s meaning. The internet has launched hundreds of these as comical videos and anecdotes, but the 1950s naming of it points to it being a longstanding phenomenon, as do near-universal mondegreens like Jimi Hendrix’s “excuse me while I kiss this guy”, when the real lyric is “excuse me while I kiss the sky”. This particular mondegreen also famously makes more sense than the original line, as do many of the popular mondegreens from Bohemian Rhapsody.
Mondegreens also work across different languages, but this is a thing that seems not to have a name in English. The Japanese name for it is soramimi (空耳). 空 is false or hollow; 耳 is an ear or hearing, one of the easier kanji to remember because it actually looks like an ear. In soramimi, a phrase in one language is coincidentally close enough to a coherent phrase in another language to at least form proper words, if not a coherent sentence. One example is the English language Beatles song I Want to Hold Your Hand, which transcribes phonetically to some Japanese ears as アホな放尿犯/Aho na hounyouhan, which means something like “idiotic public urination.” The Latin of Carl Orff’s O Fortuna can be almost entirely rendered as absurd but complete English words.
The tables flipped now we got all the coconuts bitch
OK, it’s taken a while but now I’m getting to the point. Recently I’ve been really enjyoing– if that’s the word– the new album by Death Grips, called The Money Store. I’ve been nigh on obsessed with one track in particular, Hacker. This is partly because it totally blows my head off sonically and I wish I was young enough and still had the kind of friends who’d go with me to a place where I could get on the floor and go completely mental dancing to it. Seriously, everyone, stop breeding and choosing furniture and working all the time and shit. I want to go out.
It’s also because MC Ride/Stefan Burnett’s lyrics and rhymes make absolutely no sense whatsoever in a way that I find completely brilliant, evoking some kind of severely aphasic but still fully functional individual who’s cornered you at a bus stop and either doesn’t realise or simply doesn’t care that his conversation is like a jumbled up but somehow self-organising magnetic fridge poetry kit.