I Created a Bob Dylan Mondegreen
by William Routhier


"my sensitive manatee, has gone down the drain..."


There it is, and I created it. But first, you may ask, what is a mondegreen? Well, let's go that source of all things factual, Wikipedia, which states - "The American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954. In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the final line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad "The Bonnie Earl
O' Murray." She wrote:

   When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

       Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
       Oh, where hae ye been?
       They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
       And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green". Wright explained the need for a new term: "The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original."

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Famous mondegreens are "Scuse me while I kiss this guy..."
a mishearing of  "Scuse me while I kiss the sky," from Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."
Another well known one is "She's my best dressed girl," from the Cars "She's my best friend's girl."

There are numerous mondegreens, but no one takes their mondregreens more seriously than Bob Dylan fans. Bob is, of course, a world famous lyric mumbler, second only to the absolute king (or queen*) of lyric mumbling, Mick Jagger. (*I mean, come on, when is Mick just gonna come out and fess up - I mean, who doesn't know except people in Kansas or someplace like that.) Back to Bob, there are entire chat rooms and bulletin boards where the pronunciation of his lyrics are discussed with all the seriousness of graduate students parsing T.S. Eliot. At one time, I was on such a bulletin board. I argued that in "Visions of Johanna" Dylan sang "she's delicate and seems like veneer" while others argued he sang "she's delicate and seems like the mirror." That doesn't make sense, I said. "Yes, it does," they said, "Louise is delicate and like a mirror image of Johanna but not Johanna." "Ehhh...." I said, "veneer is better, delicate and veneer go together, and why wouldn't Bob have said her mirror? Huh? Huh?"

It turned out I was wrong and this is a case where Sylvia Wright was right.  Anyway, then
I decided to approach the thing in a more humorous, less heated discussion, and made a joke about a Bob mondegreen. On the newly released at the time Time Out of Mind, on the song "Not Dark Yet,"Dylan sings "My sense of humanity has gone down the drain." He really gargles the words though, and it's hard to make them out exactly. I claimed that they were "My sensitive manatee has gone down the drain," and it was an ecological statement, since he recorded the album in Florida and must have seen a manatee, and manatees were being injured by motorboats and nets etc.

So now, if you go to any search engine and type in "my sensitve manatee dylan" you'll get a number of links to pages that list my mondegreen. Other people have even taken credit for it, but I have documented proof that my citing is the earliest, due to the good people at rec.music.dylan and, of course, Karl Eric at the most excellent Bob Dylan site on the web, Expecting Rain, for archiving it. Mine is the first citation found on the web or anywhere else, for that matter, on Dec 30th, 1997, rec.music.dylan. I'm convinced of this, until someone proves me wrong.

You can verify it for yourself at this link - Sensitive Manatee

Highlights of the discussion are re-printed here. Even Bob Dylan book author Steven Scobie weighed in on it, as you can see, highlighted below.

A small thing, you may say, but I feel honored to be a significant contributor to the gigantic mass of trivial arcania surrounding the life and work of the great artist, Bob Dylan.


                                              *******************************


william routhier   View profile  

More options Dec 30 1997, 4:00 am
I finally figured out, definitively, what he's saying in 'Not Dark Yet!'
I heard it during the video on Real Video off of  bobdylan.com, where
the sound has been remastered so that it truely sounds like Bob when
he's at his mumbling best. What he's saying isn't 'sense of humanity'
going down the drain, it's 'sensitive manatee', an obvious ecological
reference to the plight of these very sensitive and gentle creatures,
manatees, who are seriously threatened by all the boats and pollution in
the Florida canals and the everglades. After all, the album was recorded
in Florida, home of the manatee, and Bob must have had it on his mind,
maybe read about a story in the paper or saw something on TV. Or maybe he even
had one down there as a pet, which account him saying 'MY sensitive
manatee,' making the line all the more poignant and sorrowful.
I rest my case.

Bill (it all makes sense when you look closely and really think about it) Routhier


william routhier   View profile  
More options Dec 30 1997, 4:00 am
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: william routhier <routh...@tiac.net>
Date: 1997/12/30
Subject: Re: Sense of humanity or senitive manatee?


John Howells   View profile  

More options Dec 31 1997, 4:00 am
I'm surprised no has mentioned the single live version of "Not Dark
Yet" where he clearly enunciates "my sense of humanity". And I'm one
of the ones who insisted it was "my sense of temerity" on the album.
The live version clearly shows he meant to sing "humanity". Case
closed for me.
--
                                                          John Howells
                                                   howe...@bigfoot.com
                                               http://www.punkhart.com



Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: Valley <dval...@ADSS.ON.CA>
Date: 1997/12/31
Subject: sensitve manatee
lol, I'm laughing now, but I'm willing to bet I'll never take this line
seriously again.
BTW, happy new years everyone.



Subject: sensitve manatee
From: Valley <dval...@ADSS.ON.CA>
Date: Wed, Dec 31, 1997 11:19 PM
Message-id: <34AB2763.60FD@adss.on.ca>
lol, I'm laughing now, but I'm willing to bet I'll never take this line
seriously again.
BTW, happy new years everyone.
*come on, sensitive manatee, you've got to be joking. and: "Or maybe he even
had one down there as a pet, which account him saying 'MY sensitive manatee,'
making the line all the more poignant and sorrowful." lol, I can't picture
dylan taking his manatee out for a walk, or a swim.

Frankie Lee



Maureen & Stephen Scobie 
More options Jan 1 1998, 4:00 am
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: ssco...@uvic.ca (Maureen & Stephen Scobie)
Date: 1998/01/01
Subject: Re: sensitve manatee

In article <34A92483.4392F...@tiac.net>, william routhier
<routh...@tiac.net> wrote:
> I finally figured out, definitively, what he's saying in 'Not Dark Yet!'
> I heard it during the video on Real Video off of  bobdylan.com, where
> the sound has been remastered so that it truely sounds like Bob when
> he's at his mumbling best. What he's saying isn't 'sense of humanity'
> going down the drain, it's 'sensitive manatee', an obvious ecological
> reference to the plight of these very sensitive and gentle creatures,
> manatees, who are seriously threatened by all the boats and pollution in
> the Florida canals and the everglades. After all, the album was recorded
> in Florida, home of the manatee, and Bob must have had it on his mind,
> maybe read about a story in the paper or saw something on TV. Or maybe he even
> had one down there as a pet, which account him saying 'MY sensitive
> manatee,' making the line all the more poignant and sorrowful.

Dear Bill, I am deeply concerned about the fate of this poor creature,
which has "gone down the drain" -- flushed, perhaps, in a moment of
carelessness.  How would it survive life in the sewer, especially since it
is so sensitive?  Would it be afflicted by mind-polluting words?  Or might
it (we can but hope) follow the river down to the sea?  Down to New
Orleans?  Might it now have escaped vile human captivity and be restored to
its ocean home?  Is this sensitive manatee perhaps the one great image of
hope on the album?  Has it been saved?  Has it made it to the Highlands?  
With all best wishes for a Good New Year,
Stephen


william routhier   View profile  
More options Jan 1 1998, 4:00 am
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: william routhier <routh...@tiac.net>
Date: 1998/01/01
Subject: Re: sensitve manatee
Maureen & Stephen Scobie wrote:


We can only hope with all our hearts, Steven.
Best wishes in the new year to you likewise...
Bill R.


DylInn61 wrote:
> Subject: sensitve manatee
> From: Valley <dval...@ADSS.ON.CA>
> Date: Wed, Dec 31, 1997 11:19 PM
> Message-id: <34AB2763.6...@adss.on.ca>
> lol, I'm laughing now, but I'm willing to bet I'll never take this
> line
> seriously again.
> BTW, happy new years everyone.

> *come on, sensitive manatee, you've got to be joking. and: "Or maybe
> he even
> had one down there as a pet, which account him saying 'MY sensitive
> manatee,'
> making the line all the more poignant and sorrowful." lol, I can't
> picture
> dylan taking his manatee out for a walk, or a swim.

You can laugh and make light, but it's no joke to the manatee, or to
Bob.

Bill ("this here's an ecology song" - a Bob into to Wiggle Wiggle) Routhier




william routhier   View profile  
More options Jan 1 1998, 4:00 am
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: william routhier <routh...@tiac.net>
Date: 1998/01/01
Subject: Re: sensitve manatee

Valley wrote:
> lol, I'm laughing now, but I'm willing to bet I'll never take this
> line
> seriously again.
(sorry. Forget I brought it up.)

Bill (don't wanna be a party pooper... don't wanna be pooped on...) Routhier

Jan 2 1998, 4:00 am
john howells wrote:>
>I'm surprised no has mentioned the single live version of "Not Dark
>Yet" where he clearly enunciates "my sense of humanity". And I'm one
>of the ones who insisted it was "my sense of temerity" on the album.
>The live version clearly shows he meant to sing "humanity". Case
>closed for me.
wow!  i've been in the 'temerity' camp from the beginning, but when i heard the
live version i thought there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that it was
temerity.  case closed for me! unbelievable!  you've heard it and think it's
humanity?  i'm stunned.  we're gonna need a televised version with a close-up
on his lips.  or edna gunderson's gotta ask him about this next time she
interviews him.
   i know this subject is tiresome & i apologize for my lack of self control
in continuing it, but it does make me a little crazy.  i think i exhausted my
self-control in not responding to the people who said the clintons were cool.
yojimbug
my voice is really warm
it's just that it ain't got no form
it's just like a dead man's last pistol shot, baby!  -bob


william routhier  
More options Jan 4 1998, 4:00 am
Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan
From: william routhier <routh...@tiac.net>
Date: 1998/01/04
Subject: Re: sensitve manatee

DylInn61 wrote:
> Subject: sensitve manatee
> From: Valley <dval...@ADSS.ON.CA>
> Date: Wed, Dec 31, 1997 11:19 PM
> Message-id: <34AB2763.6...@adss.on.ca>
> lol, I'm laughing now, but I'm willing to bet I'll never take this
> line
> seriously again.
> BTW, happy new years everyone.
> *come on, sensitive manatee, you've got to be joking. and: "Or maybe
> he even
> had one down there as a pet, which account him saying 'MY sensitive
> manatee,'
> making the line all the more poignant and sorrowful." lol, I can't
> picture
> dylan taking his manatee out for a walk, or a swim.
You can't?! I can....

Bill (you can swim with a manatee if you want, Bob...) Routhier

"...been wadin' through the high muddy water"
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Awww... doesn't he look sensitive?
Lyric in question at 1:29