A mondegreen is defined as the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it and new meaning.
Credit for the coining of the term goes to American writer Sylvia Wright. In 1954, Wright’s essay in Harper’s magazine pointed out where the term comes from.
In the piece, she described how, as a young girl, she misheard the last line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad titled “The Bonny Earl O’Moray.”
The writer remembers how her mother read the poem aloud, and she heard::
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
The fourth line really reads “And laid him on the green.” There was no double homicide involved.
In 2008 the mondegreen was officially added to the Miriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, It can also be found in the Oxford English Dictionary and dictionary.com.
I am researching for a possible future magazine article on modegreens. Here are
a new meaning. Commonly, it is applied to a poem or song lyrics.
Aside from songs and poems, here are a few mondegreens in everyday usage.
In the world of high-tech, the term open source software is bantered around. Some, not in the know hear this as “open sores software.” Sounds painful—and gross.
Speaking of pain, there is no such thing as a heartbreak monitor. (Heart rate monitor, yes)
Also on the medical front, you may suffer from very close veins, but they only treat varicose veins.
Some people have cable television, some a dish and some paper view. Ooops, that is pay-per-view.
Businesses should take note of their slogans too. At least one-person thought Coke was saying have a coconut smile.
I will close this post by telling you that maybe someday I will be in line to win a Pullet Surprise. (Pulitzer Prize—yeah, right!)
What mondegreens have you hear?