A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 07, 2022
“José, can you see” ("Star-Spangled Banner” mondegreen)

"José, can you see” is a popular mondegreen of “O say can you see,” the first line in Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” (the U.S. national anthem).

“That old Spanish dithyramble, ‘Jose, can you see?’” was printed in the Oakland (CA) Tribune on April 15, 1924. “Jose can you see-e-e-” was printed in the San Francisco (CA) Examiner on March 12, 1926.  “The patriotic song: ‘Jose can you see’” was printed in the El Paso (TX) Herald on January 24, 1927.

Wikipedia: The Star-Spangled Banner
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from the “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.

Wikipedia: Mondegreen
A mondegreen /ˈmɒndɪɡriːn/ is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to hear a lyric clearly, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954, writing that as a girl, when her mother read to her from Thomas Percy’s 1765 book Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, she had misheard the lyric “layd him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen” in the fourth line of the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl of Murray”.
In songs
The national anthem of the United States is highly susceptible to the creation of mondegreens, two in the first line. Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” begins with the line “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light”. This has been accidentally and deliberately misinterpreted as “José, can you see”, another example of the Hobson-Jobson effect, countless times.

15 April 1924, Oakland (CA) Tribune, “The Conning Tower” by F. P. A., pg. 22, col. 3:
Not to forget—the reminder is C. S. R.—that old Spanish dithyramble, “Jose, can you see?”

12 March 1926, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, “Snappy Shots” by Denis McCarthy, pg. 4, col. 2:
Real Estate Investments.
Jose can you see-e-e-

24 January 1927, El Paso (TX) Herald, pg. 9, col. 3:
We might add to the above the patriotic song: “Jose can you see.”—Albuquerque Journal.

29 December 1931, ’Standard Union (Brooklyn, NY), pg. 11, col. 3 photo caption:
Bert Lahr (...) studies his lines for “Jose, Can You See,” a musical comedy which Ziegfeld will produce.

23 February 1932, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “On With The Show” by Florence Fisher Parry, pg. 28, col. 3:
("Hot-Cha" by Florenz Ziegfeld.—ed.)
There were some numbers—like the red hot “Jose Can’t You See,” with the Girls in yellow skirts and cobweb tops; there was—yes, there’d be bound to be—that shawl dance.

OCLC WorldCat record
Jose, can you see? : original screenplay (first draft)
Author: Piri Thomas
Publisher: [United States?] : [publisher not identified], [approximately 1960?]
Edition/Format: Manuscript Archival Material : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The income tax man
Author: Larry Gore
Publisher: Chicago : Smash Records, [1963]
Edition/Format: Audiobook on LP : LP recording : English
Alfred hick-cup --
Vaughn in a million --
Prelude ... the pep talk --
Jose can you see -

OCLC WorldCat record
Bill Dana asks: “José can you see” : the best of José Jiménez--Yesterday & today
Author: Bill Dana, comedian.; Steve Allen; Don Hinkley
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : Rhino, ℗1991.
Edition/Format: Audiobook on Cassette : Cassette recording : English

OCLC WorldCat record
José, can you see? : Latinos on and off Broadway
Author: Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez
Publisher: Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, ©1999.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : State or province government publication : English
“In-depth study of Latino representations and images in theater deconstructs ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes ingrained in dominant American ideologies. Also recognizes Latino contributions to the stage"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

OCLC WorldCat record
Bilingual games : some literary investigations
Author: Doris Sommer
Publisher: Houndmills, England ; New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Series: New directions in Latino American cultures.
Contents: Introduction / Doris Sommer --
pt. 1. Choices? --
1. What Is the Ontological Status of Bilingualism? / Michael Holquist --
2. Is Monolingualism Possible? / Enrique Bernardez --
3. “Jose, can you see?”: Latin@ Responses to Racist Discourse / Ana Celia Zentella --
pt. 2. Some Places --

Google Books
A Book of Mishearings

By J. A. Wines
London, UK: Michael O’Mara Books Limited
Pg. ?:
‘O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light’
‘José, can you see, by the dawn’s early light’

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Thursday, April 07, 2022 • Permalink