Message for You from John ... or Maybe It Was Otto: Symbolic Misremembrance as a Cultural and Perceptual Phenomenon

By Runa Fanany.

Published by The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies

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The phenomenon where an individual misremembers a word, phrase, or musical sound as one which may or may not possess the surface characteristics of the correct form is widely known. This symbolic misremembrance commonly occurs in language but can also be observed in music, often in relation to pop song lyrics or melodies. Symbolic misremembrances are commonly used in popular culture, where they are often used to evoke a comedic affective quality. The form these misremembrances will take depends heavily on the cultural background and personal experience of the individual who creates the misremembered form. Because the formation of symbolic misremembrances is largely guided by an individual’s personal knowledge and experience, the interpretation of the correct form which the misremembrance is intended to reference is extremely dependent on shared cultural knowledge. This paper examines the perceptual links guiding the formation of symbolic misremembrances and discusses the place of this perceptual phenomenon as a symbol in popular culture.

Keywords: Theme: Critical Cultural Studies, Language, Perception, Symbolic Misremembrance, Popular Culture

The International Journal of Communication and Linguistic Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 674.062KB).

Dr. Runa Fanany

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Runa Fanany received a PhD in musicology from the Conservatorium of Music at Monash University. Her research interests are film music, music in popular culture, and music aesthetics and semiotics. She teaches music history and musicology at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.