Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Mondegreen – Wacky Word Wednesday

Fine tune those ears for today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s wacky word:

mon·de·green

[mon-di-green]

-noun

a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard, usually with an amusing result

A cartoon depiction of mondegreen, a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard, usually with an amusing result.

A mondegreen is the often comical result of what one thinks is heard when actually mishearing or misinterpreting something—song lyrics are not the only victims, but usually the most common. Mondegreen was coined in 1954 by Sylvia Wright when she introduced the word to the world in the Harper’s Magazine article, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen.” The article was about Wright’s realization that the line Lady Mondegreen from the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl of Murray” was actually laid him on the green. In what would have been a beautifully poignant and poetic end to two lovers’ lives ended up being the lonely death of Earl o’ Moray:

    Ye Hielands and ye Lowlands,
    O, whaur hae ye been?
    They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
    And laid him on the green (Lady Mondegreen)

Here are some of our favorite examples of mondegreens:

  • From Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”: Hold me closer, Tony Danza…
  • Sweet Dreams” from Eurythmics: Sweet dreams are made of cheese…
  • And lastly, the American Pledge of Allegiance: “I led the pigeons to the flag…One nation under God, invisible, with liver tea and justice for all…”

Similarly, the Japanese word soramimi can essentially be understood as the bilingual version of mondegreen: misinterpreting something said in one language because it phonetically sounds like words in another language. For example, from the American alternative rock band Mudhoney’s “Here Comes Sickness”:

  • Original lyrics: There goes sickness! There goes sickness! There goes sickness, in my daddy’s car!
  • How someone who speaks Japanese might understand it when experiencing soramimi: I love lotus roots! I love lotus roots! I love lotus roots! Just now, who was that?

So tell us, what are some of your favorite mondegreen or soramimi moments?

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One Response

May 26, 2011
Kenneth Scotchwright

In Sunday school, there was this song, “Celebrate Jesus! Celebrate!” I’m fairly certain those were the only lyrics. For some reason (most likely because I was a rather large young fellow), I always though the lyrics were “Celebrate pizza! Celebrate!”

One would think that singing about pizza in church would have occurred to me as odd, but no. In fact, it was my favorite praise and worship song :)