This is a guest post by Shelley DuPont. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.
Did you ever think you knew the lyrics to a song, only to find out later they were nothing like you thought? I know I have.
Editor’s note: There’s a word for this kind of mishearing: mondegreen, “a misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing, esp. of the lyrics to a song.”
Sometimes a writer who has misunderstood an expression passes it on to the reader, with unintended results.
For example, I came across a guest post on how conversations can lead indirectly to gaining more business for yourself. Anticipating a great article, I eagerly started reading. Right at the end of the introductory paragraph, I saw it. It hit me like a small flaw on an expensive piece of clothing:
It donned on me…
The context called for it dawned on me, meaning “I understood, I became aware of.”
Wanting to reassure myself that I hadn’t been mistaken in my own understanding of the idiom, I “googled” the phrase as the author used it. There it was at the top of the page. Google was asking, “Do you mean ‘It dawned on me?'” “Yes! Yes!” I said with some relief. But this still didn’t answer the question as to why the author chose to use “donned” as the verb.
Used figuratively, the verb to dawn means “to begin to appear or become visible” in the sense of mental enlightenment or awareness. If something “dawns” on you, then a new understanding has come your way. This use seems fairly obvious, especially within the context of the article.
The verb to don, on the other hand, means “to put on clothing,” or, in a figurative sense, “to assume,” or “to get into.” For example, a recent headline taken from the New York Time’s entertainment page reads,
Amanda Seyfried likely to don “Red Riding Hood”
I suppose the author could have done it deliberately. I did discover a website named itdonnedonme that focuses on competitive 24 hour film making. But the blog title is a deliberate pun on the expression it dawned on me and the blog owner’s name: Evan Donn. The context of the article I was trying to read definitely called for “dawned.”
Maybe the error arose from the writer’s pronunciation of the words dawn and don.
dawn [dôn] rhymes with lawn, yawn and aw (as in “Aw, shucks!”)
don [dŏn] rhymes with on, con and Ron
At this point, I can only conclude that the author, like those of us singing the wrong words for years, has simply mixed up “dawn” and “don.” By the way, it just dawned on me that I never did finish reading that article.
Shelley DuPont is a former high school English teacher who blogs for local business owners. She actively tutors online ESL students, freelance writes, and paints.