Friday, February 5, 2010

Mondegreens

By Sara Hoffmann
Senior Editor

Like a lot of editors, I enjoy wordplay. And not just the sophisticated kind of wordplay most editors would be proud to say they liked. I also like wordplay that’s just plain silly. In fact, one of my favorite things are mondegreens. Monde-what, you may ask? Mondegreens. They’re those goofy words or phrases that result when we mishear something. Some of the best mondegreens come from misheard song lyrics. Take these, for example:

• There’s a bathroom on the right (mishearing of the lyric “there’s a bad moon on the rise,” from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”)

• ’Scuse me while I kiss this guy (mishearing of the lyric “ ’scuse me while I kiss the sky,” from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”)

• Olive, the other reindeer (mishearing of the lyric “all of the other reindeer,” from the holiday classic “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”). (Incidentally, this last mondegreen was the inspiration for a cute children’s book by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Seibold.)

We’ve all probably misheard song lyrics at one time or another. Or at least, I know I have. The Beach Boys songs I heard on the oldies station as a kid were particularly rich mondegreen fodder. For years, I was sure Brian Wilson was singing “bop a wren” instead of Barbara Ann. And was I ever surprised when I learned the song about the “little two scoop” was actually about a car.

What song lyrics have you misheard? Do you have any favorite mondegreens? Please share; I’d love to hear from you.

6 comments:

  1. I looked up "mondegreen" and found the source:
    a mishearing of a 17th century ballad that relates how some people slayed an earl, and... "laid him on the green",
    misheard as "Lady Mondegreen."

    [From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen]

    Gosh... are editors supposed to prefer sophisticated wordplay? I'm a sucker for stupid puns and misspellings that lead to rude misinterpretations...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the info, Francesca. There's no shame in liking stupid puns! I like them too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. For years I thought "Kind of a Drag" by The Buckinghams was a commercial for Canada Dry...and since the only soda my mom purchased was Canada Dry ginger ale, this seemed song-worthy to me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. HA! Canada Dry...I love it. Thanks for sharing this great mondegreen, Buffy!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete