Now you may not know what a mondegreen is, but I am pretty confident that not only have you heard at least one in your life, but that you have probably made one or two of your own along the way!
According to the “Hot word” blog, “A mondegreen is a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that shares homophony (sounds like) another word or phrase that has been heard.
Not to be confused with a malapropism, which is the unintentional improper use of a single word, mondegreens are often applied to a line in a poem or a lyric from a song – usually with amusing results.
Sylvia Wright, an American author, coined the term after a phrase she recalls mishearing as a young girl. According to Wright, the first stanza from the 17th century ballad “The Boony Earl O’Moray” goes a little something like this:
“Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where have ye been?
They have slain the Earl O’Moray
And Lady Mondegreen.”
The correct phrasing of the fourth line is actually, “And laid him on the green.” As Wright points out, many times mondegreens can seem to be of superior quality to the actual words.
James Gleick, an American author and journalist, believes the mondegreen is a distinctly modern event. “Without improved communication and standardization of language which accompanies it, there would have been no way for this shared experience to have been recognized and discussed.”
The Blog then lists some Mondegreens from its readers. Here are some of them:
“’Scuse me while I kiss this guy “(‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky from “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix)
“Alex the seal” (Our lips are sealed from “Our Lips Are Sealed” by the Go-Go’s)
“Hold me closer Tony Danza” (Hold me closer tiny dancer from “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John)
(An example of a reverse mondegreen is Iron Butterfly’s 1968 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which was originally titled “In the Garden of Eden.”)
“Bingo Jed had a light on” instead of “Big ‘Ol Jet Airliner” from the 'The Steve Miller Band' song.
“There’s a bathroom on the right,” instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” from Credence Clearwater Revival “Bad Moon Rising”
Another person added: “We sang “O, Susanna” in middle school chorus, which was the first time I realized that the line was not, “…with a Band-Aid on my knee.” As The Hot Word points out, my lyrics made more sense than “a banjo on my knee” — which I could not visualize at all.”
Rupert Holmes Pineapple, sorry, “Pina Colada Song” (Which is actually Called ‘Escape’) is another. Well that’s some other peoples! Here are a couple of mine now. My own most notable Mondegreens are “They call me Mad and yellow, instead of “mellow yellow” from Donavan’s “Mellow Yellow”.
Another was Savage Gardens “Animal Song” where instead of “When superstars and cannonballs are running through your head.” I heard “cannibals running through the jungle”
Well, they’re my mondegreens! What are some of yours that you feel like sharing now that you know you are not alone and that there is even a special name for this modern phenomenon?