Have you ever confidently recited a poem or sung a song only to find out that you have completely misunderstood a line?
⭕ Long before the Internet came along. Yes, there was a time before the Internet! Before the internet we used to experience anything and simply enjoying it. We used to have to look up things in books. Oh! Yes, without the Internet I would probably never know about the term “Mondegreen” and you either! Well, we must admit that in this perfectly imperfect world nothing is entirely good or entirely bad, Internet included! Whether the Internet is for better or worse, of course, is a question that remains to be answered.
⭕ In 1954, an American writer named Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” in her essay entitled “Lady Mondegreen,” which was, apparently, a common mishearing and misinterpretation or a wrong pronunciation of the phrase: “laid him on the green” in the Scottish ballad “The Bonnie Earl O’Moray.”
⭕ Eventually, to this day, Lady Mondegreen’s name has been used to describe all mishearings of this type! You may have found yourself drifting off a bit by now, but for me as a logophile, I enjoy discovering new words, using them and learning about their origins. The term Mondegreen is a fascinating discovery. Don’t you agree? I know the French term “Yaourter” which has the same meaning as “Mondegreen”, but I didn’t know that such a word exists in English! The English language is a funny thing, but so are all the other languages for that matter.
⭕ Mondegreen is the phenomenon of mishearing lines of a song lyrics, but poetry is also a frequent victim. Sometimes it is a lack of correct enunciation, sometimes it’s the speed or pitch that a lyric is delivered at. The funny thing is, sometimes a song lyric or a recited poem will become famous not for what it says, but for what it sounds like it says to the uncareful ear.
⭕ Mondegreen happens, when children are learning adult language, when adults are learning a new academic discipline, or when anyone is learning a foreign language, we often mishear or misinterpret the words for one reason or another.
⭕ For language learners, overcoming the difficulties of speech errors in English can be an overwhelming task. The first step is simply being aware of the possible errors and problems that may arise. Nowadays, the Internet can help students make better, more correct word choices.
⭕ Thanks to Sylvia Wright for putting a name to this phenomenon, which it seems many people have experienced. Our mistaken interpretations can often be quite creative, even attributing to lyrics an originality and profundity their author never intended.
Mondegreen example from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”:
- Actual lyric: Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
- Mondegreen: Excuse me while I kiss this guy!
⭕ I once misheard a lyric from “Staying Alive” by Bee Gees for “Stay in line”! It is also fun to note that, once you have grown up with the misheard version of a text, a song or a poem, the correct version will always somehow sound ‘wrong’ to you. The term mondegreen has now been widely adopted to mean ‘misheard lyric’.
Now it’s your turn! Share some of your favorite mondegreens in the comments below. Which lyrics have you misinterpreted before?
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