Sunday, 25 January 2009

Autour-du-mondegreens take #2

Further to Autour-du-mondegreens - the process of transliterating one language into another (deliberately or otherwise) - here's "Ken Lee", Valentina Hasan's take on Mariah Carey's cover of Without You on the Bulgarian Music Idol show.

Но уан кен ту кен ту сивмен.
Но йон клиз тожу маливе.
Уен ай гез ажу завате на налечу мо.
Ню йонуз тунай молинай
йон сора шооо.
Йес и шооо, ооо.

Кен лии,
тулибу дибу даучу.
Кен ли,
Кен ли межу мо.
Кен ли,
тулибу дибу даучу.
Кен ли,
Кен ли межу мо.

Or, transliterated back into English:

No one ken to ken to sivmen,
nor yon clees toju maliveh.
When i gez aju zavateh na nalechoo more,
new yonooz tonigh molinigh,
Yon sorra shooo,
yes ee shooo, ooo.

Ken leee
tulibu dibu douchoo
Ken Lee,
Ken lee meju more.
Ken Lee
tulibu dibu douchoo
Ken Lee,
Ken lee meju more.

This isn't strictly an autour-du-mondegreen; Ms Hasan was trying to reproduce the English song phonetically rather than make it into Bulgarian words (and furthermore working from a tape, without even the benefit of visual cues). Given an unknown song, even native speakers often find such a task difficult, as evidenced by the prevalence of mondegreens. Still, the overall effect is rather like the strange chorus of the 2002 Spanish disco hit The Ketchup Song by Las Ketchup.

Aserejé ja de jé de jebe
tu de jebere sebiunouva
majabi an de bugui
an de buididipí

This attracted some bizarre speculation, including the meme that it concealed a Satanic message (see the Internet Archive for example commentary). The reality is merely that the song is about Diego, a Spanish Rastafarian gypsy who wants to be a hip hop performer but, knowing no English, garbles into Spanish phonotactics the words of the classic 1979 Rapper's Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang:

I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie
do the hip hip hop, a you don't stop
the rockin' to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat

I notice we just got in Luis van Rooten's 1967 book Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames, which does the same with nursery rhymes: transliterating the English into reasonably coherent French phrases, then applying scholarly commentary (see examples). I haven't read it for years, but remember it as very good: I'll have a proper look when I'm next on duty.

Addendum. Yep: it's great fun (especially if you like pastiches of the kinds of academic texts whose footnotes are longer than the text they're commenting on). For instance, the cover example about the most famous omelette of history:

Un petit d'un petit 1
S'étonne aux Halles 2
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent 3
Indolent qui ne sort cesse 4
Indolent qui ne se mène 5
Qu'importe un petit d'un petit
Tout Gai de Reguennes. 6

1. The inevitable result of a child marriage.
2. The subject of this epigrammatic poem is obviously from the provinces, since a native Parisian would take this famous old market for granted.
3. Since this personage bears no titles, we are led to believe that the poet writes of one of those unfortunate idiot-children than in olden days existed as a living skeleton in their family's closet. I am inclined to believe, however, that this is a fine piece of misdirection and that the poet is actualy writing of some famous political prisoner, or the illegitimate offspring of some noble house. The Man in the Iron Mask, perhaps?
4,5. Another misdirection. Obviously it was not laziness that prevented this person's going out and taking himself places.
6. He was obviously prevented from fulfilling his destiny, since his is compared to Gai de Reguennes. This was a young squire (to one of his uncles, a Gaillard of Normandy) who died at the tender age of twelve of a surfeit of Saracen arrows before the walls of Acre in 1191.

A loose translation (not in the book) might be:

A child of a child
Amazed at Les Halles.
A child of a child.
Ah! Disgrace befalls you.
A lazy one that gets out constantly.
A lazy one who can be fought.
Never mind a child of a child,
All Gai de Reguennes.

Recommended; and interesting: I didn't realise the author, the late Luis van Rooten (1906-1973), had such a multifaceted career. A Mexican-born character actor who was typecast, as was often the case, into sleazy and villainous movie roles - see IMDb - he was also a radio actor, horticulturalist, artist and writer. Wikipedia lists his other books as Van Rooten's Book of Improbable Saints (Viking, 1975 - more multilingual puns via spoof hagiographies such as those of Sainte Maladie Endemique de Foie and Saint Cedilla Onderzee), and the gardening spoof The Floriculturist's Vade Mecum of Exotic and Recondite Plants, Shrubs and Grasses, and One Malignant Parasite (Doubleday, 1973).

- Ray


  1. Excellent video. That's pretty much how I sing; so much better than using the same old words.

    What that singer did reminds me a lot of Anguish Languish.

  2. Ah, just so. I laughed at first at "Ken Lee", but I'm scarcely any better at understanding songs. Used to have a girlfriend who'd play me scratchy tapes of pop songs and then expect me to discuss the lyrics. She had the advantage of having read the sleeve notes: all I was hearing was at the level of "Yaaaar breaking m'nar wibble out here".*

    * Actually the bridge section of Dream a little dream of me: "Stars fading, but I linger on, dear".

  3. I kept thinking of Freud and his slips as outlined in "An Introduction to Psychoanalysis." Maybe the "I led the pigeons to the flag" tells us something deep about our psyche. I miss Freud.

  4. Yep: The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is also great fun (I think a mix of the genuinely perceptive and the plain wacky).

    I'd not run into the pigeons one - obviously it's not such an ingrained phrase here - though I see the AHD cites it as its sample mondegreen.