Mondegreen stuff

Yesterday’s A.Word.A.Day was our old friend mondegreen:


noun: A word or phrase resulting from mishearing a word or phrase, especially in song lyrics. For example:

“The girl with colitis goes by” for “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” in the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.


Coined by author Sylvia Wright when she misinterpreted the line “laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen” in the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl of Murray”. Earliest documented use: 1954.


“Since I live in Thailand, the most meaningful mondegreen for me was my own mishearing of a line from The Jam’s Eton Rifles. Instead of the correct ‘What chance do you have against a tie and a crest?’, for years I heard ‘What chance do you have against a Thai in a dress?'” (Richard Watson Todd, Much Ado about English, 2007).

Hat tip to Benita Bendon Campbell, who recalled an anecdote about Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, reported in a comment on a posting of mine:

Many years ago, in Paris and then in Princeton, Ann [Daingerfield Zwicky] and I often (oh, very very often) listened to the original cast recording of “Candide.” In the first act song “Oh, Happy Pair,” the line “Somehow we’ll grow as rich as Midas” sounded to me like “Some Harvard Boy as rich as Midas.” After Ann told me the real words, I could hear it correctly, but she found that the Harvard Boy had over-written her own version.

Yesterday, Bonnie added the detail that the mishearing was especially piquant because the song is about two people who misunderstand each other.

A YouTube version with Paul Groves and the wonderful Kristin Chenowith:

Mondegreens are a popular topic for linguistic discussions by non-linguists. On this blog, see especially this posting, which has an inventory of some postings on mishearings on this site.


One Response to “Mondegreen stuff”

  1. Musings: What Is Your Mondegreen? | Mirth and Motivation Says:

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