The red-nosed wendy

The red-nosed wendy

Rodolphe has to hurry up, Christmas is coming ...

Wendy or reindeer? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since we are quickly closing in on Christmas (or Xmas), let me share one of the funniest language stories I have to offer. A couple of years ago, I was waiting at the Oslo Bus Terminal for my connection to the Jotunheimen National Park. While reading, I happened to overhear a conversation between two girls and a young man. Judging by their accents, none of them were native English speakers. The young man mentioned that he was from Germany, and that he currently lived in Oslo as a student.

At some point, the conversation turned to nature and hiking, and he asked the girls if they had seen any wendies since arriving in Norway. The girls did not understand what he was talking about, so he tried to explain:

You know, wendies. Like in the song: “Rudolph, the red-nosed wendy”.

(He actually sang the refrain, and I somehow managed not to laugh.)

Apparently, the young man had not realized that the song was about a reindeer called Rudolph, and instead thought that the word in the song was wendy. Remarkably, he went on to use wendy as if it were the correct English name for a reindeer. (In this particular case, this is quite surprising because the English word reindeer is so close to the German word Rentier.)

Apparently, the mishearing of words in songs is so common that the phenomenon even has its own name: mondegreen (German: Verhörer). So before you rely on your listening skills when learning new English words, think about looking up new words in a dictionary. In fact, I find it to be a very good exercise to try and guess the correct spelling from the pronunciation.


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