Reading yesterday’s New York Times magazine yesterday, I learned something, While that’s not unusual, this time it was downright revelatory. I learned about “mondegreens.” And then I did my research.
Mondegreens are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally used for misheard song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech. [via]
“Misheard song lyrics.” Heh. I’ve been chuckling about this for decades, especially when I fuck it up. I remember years of trying to figure out songs to play, five of us in the room, picking up the needle off the record player and putting it down again, ears pointed, eyes scrunched, trying to simultaneously hear the right chord and get the right lyrics. No, kids, Guitar Hero wasn’t around in 1968.
I never knew there was a name for these. “Mondegreens” dates back to 1954!
The term mondegreen was originally coined by author Sylvia Wright, and has come to be quite widely used. As a child, Wright heard the lyrics of The Bonny Earl of Murray (a Scottish ballad) as:
Ye highlands and ye lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen
It eventually transpired that Lady Mondegreen existed only in the mind of Sylvia Wright, for the actual lyrics said that they “slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green.” And to this day Lady Mondegreen’s name has been used to describe all mishearings of this type!
Maybe the most famous is CCR’s, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Also: “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” That’s not what Hendrix sang. And the Beatles didn’t really sing, “the girl with colitis walks by.”
My very good friend Rag once asked me why Huey Lewis “wanted a new truck.” “Drug,” I explained. “Roll one.” Oh the memories.
Please: tell me you favorites. This could be fun.