"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 27 March 2009


A mondegreen is a form of error arising from mishearing a spoken or sung phrase. The term was coined in 1954 by the American writer Sylvia Wright in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," which was published in Harper's Magazine. In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the final line of the first stanza from the 17th century ballad "The Bonnie Earl O' Murray." 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 Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen. "

The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green."

As 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."

(The only potential example I ever came across is not really a mondegreen since I'm sure that the Christmas carol 'While shepherds washed their socks by night' was the invention of naughty schoolboys rather than those who didn't hear it properly! )


  1. How about this? Creedance Clearwater Revival: There's a bad moon on the rise, was often sung as: there's a bathroom on the right. Does that apply?

  2. I hadn't heard that one Shabby Girl - a good one!

  3. If you like Mondegreens, you'll love this website my wife often visits:


    It is a collection of musical Mondegreens.



  4. "Gladly the cross-eyed bear for Jesus".

  5. Just came across another one - Crystal Gayle's song 'Doughnuts make your brown eyes blue".