mondegreens

Even if you don’t know the word “mondegreen” you know what one is. It’s hearing words to a song incorrectly. Children are known for their mondegreens. There’s the story of the young boy who was asked who the most important figure in the Bible was. He responded “Round John Virgin.” When asked who Round John Virgin was, he responded that we sing about him every Christmas, “Round John Virgin, mother and child.”

The word itself comes from the essayist Sylvia Wright, who admits hearing the words to the Scottish Ballad, “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray, And laid him on the green” as “They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen.” You can find the word in Merriam-Webster, The American Heritage Dictionary, and the Oxford Dictionaries Online.

I first heard the word on a segment of Soundcheck from WNYC a few years ago. Last week it was featured in a piece on the public radio program The World, which is better known for its coverage of ISIS, Ebola, and drug lords in Mexico.

Adults as much as children create mondegreens. The Soundcheck episode paid a great deal of attention to the mis-heard words of John Fogerty in “Bad Moon Rising:” “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Fogerty is said to have sung those words in concerts at times.

The piece on The World referenced the Jimi Hendrix song “Purple Haze,” where “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” was heard as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” Hendrix may or may not have sung it that way once he caught wind of the misperception.

This is a topic I enjoy. Feel free to share your own mondegreens in the comments.



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