A mondegreen is the unintentional mangling or misrepresenting of lyrics. In the case of the classic New Year’s Eve song “Auld Lang Syne”, the mandegreen occurs because the lyrics use old Scottish which can easily throw off other English speakers.
One of the common mistakes is the line “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” It deals with a common sentiment that sets upon every adult with the passing of every year: those loved ones not alive to welcome the incoming year. It evokes the question of whether we as people should let the dead belong to the past or if we should keep them alive in our hearts and memories. However, for many people the line is accidentally sung as follows: “Should all acquaintance be for God, in the land of old man time?”
Some other common mandregreens for this verse begin as “Should old Aunt Quaintance be forgot?” Another is “Should all the quaintence be for God and ne’er bought to miii?” By getting the actual verse correct, we can contemplate the meaning that Scottish poet Robert Burns intended us to ponder during this time of the year. Burns first made a copy of the poem available to the Scots Musical Museum back in 1788.
Misheard holiday lyrics “Should all acquaintance be for God, in the land of old man time?”
Misheard holiday lyrics