in the wild: "misremembers"

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 14 23:33:21 UTC 2008

On Wed, Feb 13, 2008 at 9:08 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at>

> indeed.  tons of hits, and an OED entry with cites back to the 16th
> century.

To be precise (oh, why not?):


misremember, v.
1. trans. To remember wrongly or imperfectly; to have an imperfect
recollection of. Also (Sc. and Irish English): to forget.  [Examples from
1533 on.]

2. intr. To be mistaken in one's memory or recollection of something. [first
cite 1614, John Donne]

I also remember (or seem to remember) a poem or song in which a police
beating of someone was described with the comment "they said they had a
reason but I misremember what". I can't find that in Digital Tradition, but
Google finds 32 for "I misremember what". They seem to be a mixture of OED's
two transitive defs, 'remember wrongly' and 'forget'. (Shouldn't those be
separate items rather than stuck together with "also"?)

-- Ah! I misremembered the lyric. (You knew that had to come up in this
thread, didn't you.) From The Death Of Emmett Till, by Bob Dylan:

The Death Of Emmett Till, by Bob Dylan:

    Some men they dragged him to a barn an' there they beat him up
    They said they had a reason but i disremember what

The official lyrics site has "I can't remember what", but this is how I
heard the song, and probably how it was recorded.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

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