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What is a Mondegreen?

December 17th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Humor

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase or song lyric, a word coined by the writer Sylvia Wright in the November, 1954, issue of Harper’s magazine.

As a child, Sylvia heard the 17th Century Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl O’Murray” and believed that one stanza went like this:

  • Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands
  • Oh where hae you been?
  • They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
  • And Lady Mondegreen.

A romantic and poetic end to poor Lady Mondegreen and her lord, the Earl of Murray. It wasn’t until years later that she discovered there never had been a Lady Mondegreen… and as for the Earl of Murray… well they had slain him, only him,  and then laid him on the green.

It has taken 54 years, but mondegreen has finally been included in the 2008 Meriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

A few other mondegreens appropriate to the season:

  • Round John Virgin, mother, and child
  • Frosty the snowman is a ferret elf I say
  • Noel, noel, noel, noel, Barney’s the King of Israel
  • Deck the halls with Buddy Holly
  • Good king wants his applesauce at the feast this evening
  • While shepherds washed their socks at night
  • We free kings of Oregon are
  • Joy to the world! The Lord has gum.

Kathy’s words

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Keith Eldred

    I learned the term “mondegreen” in late 2007. One thing led to another, and now I’m the administrator of a flaky effort called MANDY GREEN Project largely aimed at helping make “mondegreen” a household word. It involves a quirky novel written by MANDY GREEN (yep, a mondegreen of “mondegreen”) whose story centers on a mondegreen (“Gesundheit Whistle” misheard as “Gazoon High Twizzle”). Please check it out and tell all your friends named MANDY GREEN.

    My son told me the whole effort is hopeless, adding that he hated to be the BEAR OF BAD NEWS.

    Today he mentioned that he always thought that CIRQUE DU SOLEIL was CIRCUS L.A.

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