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Mondegreens,Malapropisms and Eggcorns

16 April 2019

From Dictionary.com:

A word or a phrase resulting from mishearing another word or phrase (especially in a song or poem) is a common phenomenon known as a mondegreen. A mondegreen typically sounds like the original phrase, (i.e., they’re homophonous) but the meaning is often entirely changed—with presumably amusing results.

. . . .

Mondegreens are not to be confused with malapropisms, “the act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.” One ready example is to “dance the flamingo” instead of “dance the flamenco.”

Nor should mondegreens be confused with eggcorns, “a word or phrase that is a seemingly logical alteration of another word or phrase that sounds similar and has been misheard or misinterpreted.” Where malapropisms tend to be obviously ridiculous, an eggcorn can be a plausible variant of the original phrase, often working in the same context. A common eggcorn is “old wise tale” for the more canonical “old wives’ tale.”

Link to the rest at Dictionary.com

Here are additional examples of mondegreens:

Artist Mondegreen Actual Lyric Album
Led Zeppelin and there’s a wino down the road – I should have stolen Oreos and as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls Stairway to Heaven
Van Halen Running With my billfold Running With the Devil Running With the Devil
Steve Winwood bake me a pie of love OR bring me an iron lung! bring me a higher love Higher Love
Steve Winwood I can light bananas with my nose on fire! I can light the night up with my soul on fire
ZZ Top Everybody’s crazy ’bout a shot glass man Everybody’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man Sharp-Dressed Man
Elvis Presley Everybody in a wholesale frock everybody in the whole cell block Jailhouse Rock

Link to the rest at UH.edu


12 Comments to “Mondegreens,Malapropisms and Eggcorns”

  1. Who can ever forget Creedence Clearwater Revival’s immortal lyric, “there’s a bathroom on the right”?

    • In a previous life, I was in a dance hall where the band started their set with ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and sang those mis-lyrics and pointed. Sure enough, there was!

      • Oh, that’s too funny! And proves they must’ve known about it, which is even better.

  2. Until quite embarrassingly recently, I was much happier with my mid-teens interpretation of “Knights in White Satin”.

    I didn’t read fan rags or buy many albums, and the internet was not an option in 1968. What can I say?

  3. Let’s not forget Neil Diamond’s song about Reverend Blue Jeans.

    Or (not sure of the group) ♫♪…You’re the one who can scratch my ears…♫♪

  4. I deliberately do not read song lyrics. My interpretation of a song’s story is an inherent part of my joy in listening.

  5. “Oh my god a penguin on a lama.” — The Lion King

    • My daughters thought that lyric was “in a jar with penguins on the bottom” and sang it that way.

  6. In the early days of Megan McArdle’s blog, she had a frequent visitor who went by the handle “secret Asian man.” I was gratified that he called himself that, because that is exactly the wording I hear in the song “Secret Agent Man.” I knew I was mishearing the line, because of course the man wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret if he’s Asian, right? But — what would he be up to if he tried?

    Drew Barrymore has a cute animated movie about mondegreens. It’s called “Olive, the Other Reindeer,” and in it a reindeer girl named Olive thinks that Santa needs her help. Because of the line in the Rudolph song about “all of the other reindeer.” She meets a man named Richard Stands, who thinks the Pledge of Allegiance is about him, because of the line, “For the republic, for which it stands.”

    My eggcorn is that I originally heard “Alzheimer’s Disease” as “Old Timer’s Disease.” I thought that the name seemed so cold and rude, but the clue that I was mishearing it was how gravely a character was discussing the disease in the TV episode where I first heard it.

    It’s really bad, though, when I can’t quite get someone’s name. Especially if the someone is my aunt (by marriage), and she has a foreign accent (Bahamian). I got around it by calling her Auntie. I was secretly glad then that my mother had the same problem, which she revealed when she asked one of my cousins to write Auntie’s name down for us.

    It turned out Auntie’s name is a French feminine form of a Biblical name that 20th century Americans don’t use (and I can’t remember the spelling of). Older Bahamians often have very Biblical names; my dad has a cousin named Zebedee. Mom and I looked at the paper and said together, “Ohhh.” We could never hear it properly until we saw it written down. At least she was a good sport 🙂

  7. As a middle schooler, I remember being confused when all the cool guys went around singing “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” – turns out Jimi Hendrix was singing about kissing the sky.
    There’s a great book out there called Mis-heard lyrics. I still have it.

  8. Very crusti-merzy

    Ferry cross the mercy

  9. Hamster, a dentist, heartburn, Steven seagull. Warrior, this rifle, in me, the Fishmaster

    Master, apprentice, Heartborn, Seventh Seeker. Warrior, disciple, in me, the Wishmaster

    Wishmaster By Nightwish. It was really popular years ago (I feel old now) and spawned other missheard lyrics videos.


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