According to Merriam-Webster, a mondegreen is a “word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung.” The term was coined by Silvia Wright in her 1954 essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen.” As a young child, Wright misheard the line “And laid him on the green” from the 17th-century ballad “The Bonny Earl O’Moray” as “And Lady Mondegreen.” Some examples of mondegreens from music include hearing “Burning out his fuse up here alone” from the Elton John song Rocket Man, as “Burning off the shoes of everyone,” and hearing “Alex the seal” instead of “Our lips are sealed” from The Go-Go’s song with the eponymous title.
When I was in kindergarten, my vocabulary was quite limited, and therefore, I misinterpreted quite a few of the words and phrases that I heard. The following are some examples:
- I thought Pennsylvania was “Pencil vania”.
- I heard and sang “Land of the pilgrims’ pride” as “Land where the pilgrims cried.” Apparently, I didn’t know what pride was, though I did cry often.
- I pledged “a legiance” to the flag, whatever that was supposed to be.
- I thought the Declaration of Independence was the “decoration” of independence. I was already into decorating things.
- I thought human beings were “human beans,” and I think jokes about it contributed to my confusion.
- I thought the word vampire was “vanpire”. I also confused it with empire and umpire, and it didn’t help that people often played with these words.
- I sang “All the more we get together” as “All aboard” we get together.
- I thought a hammock was a “hammercock.” I think I heard that from someone else, but I’m not sure who said it.
Now just last August during orientation, a student invited us to an event later that night, and described it as a “fun rager.” I wasn’t sure if I heard it incorrectly, since we were outdoors and there was street traffic noise, but I wasn’t the only one wondering what a “fun rager” was supposed to be. The student who mentioned it had even made a face himself while saying those words, so it looked as though he was confused as well. Perhaps he had first heard it incorrectly. I ended up not attending, since I was very tired. It wasn’t until later, after subsequent fundraising events that I realized that the “fun rager” was actually a fundraiser.
Care to share any amusing mondegreens of your own?