Remember when you were a kid and couldn’t wait for Saturday morning to get here so you could sit in front of the TV, happily eating a bowl of Fruit Loops while watching Loony Toons or The Flinstones? Of course you do.

Uh, well actually you weren’t. What you were doing was eating Froot Loops while you watched Loony Tunes or The Flintstones. OK, that was a long time ago and we all forget stuff, right? Maybe.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, try finding these items: Jiffy peanut butter, a box of Cheez-Itz, a package of Oscar Meyer bologna, and a Kit-Kat bar. You won’t find any of them. Why? Because the brand names you should be looking for are: Jif, Cheez-It, Oscar Mayer, and KitKat.

But don’t worry, I’ve got some good news: You don’t need to run out and buy a bottle of those memory pills that are endlessly hawked on TV.

It turns out that you — and most of the rest of us — are victims of something called the the Mandela effect, which is defined as “the collective false memory of pop culture or a current event.” It gets its name from the time “paranormal consultant” Fiona Broome “remembered” that Nelson Mandela had passed away during the 1980s, and discovered that a lot of other people also recalled the event. The only problem is that Mandela died in 2013. (They may have been recalling the 1977 killing of anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, whose funeral was attended by 20,000 mourners.)

“OK,” you’re thinking, “I may not pay close attention to brand spellings and some events (and besides, this guy’s splitting hairs), but I do know what I hear.”

Do you? Mondegreens and oronyms (which are pretty much the same thing — words or phrases that our brains replace for other words and phrases because they sound similar and seem plausible) are nothing more than aural versions of the Mandela effect.

The term “mondegreen” comes from the time that essayist Sylvia Wright listened to her mother read a poem. Her mother read: “They hae slain the Earl Amurray and laid him on the green,” but Wright heard, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray and Lady Mondegreen.” The poor dear, what had she ever done to them? (Wright asserts that usually the misheard version is better than the original — you be the judge.)

Some good examples of mondegreens are: “Old wise tale” instead of “old wives’ tale,” and “nip it in the butt” for “nip it in the bud.” Other examples come from popular songs. Did Jimi Hendrix sing “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” or “kiss this guy”? Did the Beatles see “the girl with kaleidoscope eyes” or “the girl with colitis go by”? Did Elton John sing “Hold me closer tiny dancer” or “Hold me closer Tony Danza?”

And if you’re wondering whether or not there’s ever been a song that’s an intentional mondegreen, you need look no further than Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.”

With all this to remember, it might not be a bad idea to go out and buy a bottle of those memory pills after all.

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: