May 12


Posted by lori . 9 Comments


Whoops…I knew what I meant, but I sure didn’t say it well.  Yesterday, I said, “I’m taking a break for a few weeks in order to finish some things.”  What I meant was, “I’m not going to start anymore projects or e-courses for a few weeks in order to finish some things.”

Although not the same thing, this got me thinking about when you hear something wrong, like the words to a song.  There is actually a name for that.  It’s called a mondegreen…the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning.

American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” in her essay, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954.  In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the last line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad, “The Bonny Earl O’Moray”.  She wrote:

When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line is, “And laid him on the green”.  Wright explained the need for a new term:

The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.

This information about mondegreens came from Wikipedia.

Do you have any mondegreens?  Here are some funny ones.

Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra

Actual Lyric:  Abra Abra Cadabra…I wanna reach out and grab ya.

Mistaken Lyric:  Abra Abra Cadabra…I wanna freak out and stab ya.

Paul Young – Every Time You Go Away

Actual Lyric:  Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you.

Mistaken Lyric:  Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons – Let’s Hang On

Actual Lyric:  Got a lot of love between us.

Mistaken Lyric:  Got a lot of lucky peanuts.

Bon Jovi – Living On A Prayer

Actual Lyric:  It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.

Mistaken Lyric:  ‘It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.

The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Actual Lyric:  Don’t stand so close to me.

Mistaken Lyric:  Ghost man so close to me.

Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now

Actual Lyric:  I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

Mistaken Lyric:  I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone.

The Beatles – All My Loving

Actual Lyric:  And I’ll send all loving to you.

Mistaken Lyric:  And I’ll send all my luggage to you.

Fanny Crosby – Keep Thou My Way

Actual Lyric:  Gladly the cross I’ll bear.

Mistaken Lyric:  Gladly the cross-eyed bear.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Takin’ Care Of Business

Actual Lyric:  Takin’ care of business.

Mistaken Lyric:  Baking carrot biscuits.

My mondegreen…when we learned the National Anthem, the first line is, “Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light.”  I thought the first line was, “Oh, say, can you see, by the dawnzerly light.”  I thought “dawnzerly” was an archaic adverb!  I was quite a bit older before I figured out what the real words were.  I probably have others, but I still think they’re the words to the song.

So, I’m still posting and baking carrot biscuits.

Daily Inspiration


There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.

William P. Merrill

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at 2:00 am and is filed under Lori's Lists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to " Mondegreens"

  • jan says:

    Hello Lori. Loved your post today so much I thought I’d leave you a comment instead of lurking! 😉

    One of my favourite Mondegreen is the Paul Young one you have included above, but I also love this one…

    Mike Francis – Friends
    Actual Lyric: Come on my friend and leave your caution to the wind
    Mistaken Lyric: Come on my friend and heave your cushions to the wind.

  • Ann says:

    I had no idea there was a term for that. Laughed when I read the mistaken lyrics. Reminded me of what I incorrectly said for years when referring to a partnership or an equal commitment to communicating…that it is a “two-way streak” instead of “two-way street.” I almost DIED when I read shortly the latter (correct) phrase AFTER making a presentation using that incorrect phrase.

  • Bassetmomma says:

    Mondegreens! I love that there is a word for it! I have lots, I am a little embarrassed to say. I always just sing it like I hear it and it usually isn’t right! LOL!

  • Declan says:

    How about:
    Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
    Spare him this life from this monstrosity!
    Spare him this life from the warm sausages

    La Isla Bonita – Madonna
    Young girl with eyes like the desert
    Young girl with eyes like potatoes

    Like a virgin
    Touched for the very first time
    Touched for the thirty first time

    Deccy x

  • houndstooth says:

    Ha ha ha! I’m glad to know there’s a word for it!

    I always loved Purple Haze by Jimmy Hendrix. I still giggle every time I hear it!

    Excuse me while I touch the sky
    Excuse me while I kiss this guy

  • My mondegreen happened yesterday. After capoeira training, us girls decided to go grab some Japanese food. The boys decided to go for beer (so predictable). One of the boys said to me (and please pardon my English)… “you’ll get fucked.”

    Now this is A Very Nice Fellow so I was a bit surprised and asked him if he’d just told me to get f……ed. He was horrified and said “No, no! I said DON’T get f…..ed!”

    At this point, I was looking at my other girlfriends and they were just as nonplussed. And then it hit me!

    He was Welsh! And he hadn’t said “f…..ed”. He’d said “FAT”! What a good laugh. Poor guy.

    I’m glad you’re not taking a few weeks off 🙂

  • That is really funny, some lyrics are so strung together it’s no wonder people mistake what they are really saying.
    Lynne x

  • Tooki says:

    Oh Lori, I thoroughly enjoyed all those mondegreens! There’s one by my Mom but half of it is in Chinese (she understood very, very little English).
    The advertisement on tv : You are my hero.
    My mom thought : You are my chee roe.
    And what is chee roe? Chicken meat. Funny thing was she thought that was it for a pretty long time.

  • Kat says:

    Love, love, love this post! Didn’t know that term, but have experienced many examples of mondegreens. So many times, even after we know the “correct” lyrics, we still hear our versions! My best came from my husband…and I still hear the lyric his way!
    10,000 Maniacs – Jezebel
    Actual Lyric: I feel like the thief who is raiding your home
    Mistaken Lyric: (inaudible)faithful Israeli

    Now, in his defense, Natalie Merchant is ridiculously hard to understand!

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