1/2/09

What in the world is a MONDEGREEN?




Earlier this week, while chatting with a friend, I was introduced to the word/concept "mondegreen". Now, I consider myself rather savvy when it comes to words, but this was one I'd never heard of. My friend suggested this might be a fun topic for my blog. So here it is! And, by the way... Thanks Curtis!


According to wikipedia, a mondegreen is "the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony, in a way that yields a new meaning to the phrase." You can read more about the history and origin of the word by clicking the word mondegreen in the previous sentence. It's a rather interesting story.

Well, the "mishearing of a phrase" didn't immediately sound fascinating to me, but after reading the rest of the article, and also chatting again with the friend who suggested I look into the word, it became a pretty entertaining topic. I realized that I'd been the victim of mondegreens pretty often, normally in the form of mishearing lyrics to a popular song. (For what it's worth, I also realized that my husband is the master of the reverse-mondegreen... taking a well-known lyric and changing it around so that it sounds similar to the actual lyric but means something funny or nonsensical.)

For example, in the 1980's, Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet Album" was very popular. Of course, I owned the cassette tape. (I'm showing my age here, aren't I?) In the song "You Give Love a Bad Name", the opening lyrics are "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame, darlin' you give love a bad name." Until recently, I thought the lyrics were "Shot through the heart, and you're too vain, darlin' you give love a bad name." It wasn't until a contestant on a recent season of American Idol sang the song that I realized I'd had the lyrics wrong all this time.

In the early 90's, Garth Brooks exploded on to the country music scene with his song "Friends in Low Places". In the chorus of the song, he describes going to a local bar or hang out called "The Oasis" to drown his sorrows over a former love moving on with another man. The actual lyrics of the song are "I'm not big on social graces. Think I'll slip on down to The Oasis. Oh I've got friends in low places." The summer the song came out, a group of friends and I were sitting together, acting silly, singing that song. And one of my best friends said, "I just don't understand what salted raisins have to do with anything." We all looked at her like she'd lost her mind. Salted raisins? What in the world was she talking about? So she sang for us the line in the song she was referring to... "I'm not big on salted raisins. Think I'll slip on down to The Oasis. Oh I've got friends in low places." Of course, we all cracked up laughing!

After googling "misheard lyrics", I found several lists of hilarious mondegreens. Some of the more funny ones I'll post here. If you're inclined to read more, or just want some quick laughs, check out the website I used that lists the 100 Top Misheard Lyrics. Laugh and enjoy!

"We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
Actual Lyric: "Now bring us some figgy pudding."
Mondegreen: "Now bring us some friggin' pudding."

"Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
Actual Lyric: "That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight losing my religion."
Mondegreen: "Let's pee in the corner. Let's pee in the spotlight losing my religion."
(Again... thanks Curtis!)

"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Actual Lyric: "There's a bad moon on the rise."
Mondegreen: "There's a bathroom on the right."

"Mysterious Ways" by U2
Actual Lyric: "She moves in mysterious ways."
Mondegreen: "Shamu the mysterious whale."

So now you know. Don't you all feel a bit more enriched now, knowing what a mondegreen is? Isn't it comforting to know there's a word for all those song lyrics you've misheard over the years? If you have some funny ones of your own, post them here! I'd love to read them and laugh with you!

Happy Mondegreen-ing!

(And once again... Thanks Curtis!)

9 comments:

  1. oh, that is way too funny! I didn't know this word, either, Amy. Thanks for sharing. I remember once a nephew of mine was singing along to an "oldie but goodie" in the back seat while I was driving. The song was, Venus, and he was singing, "I'm your penis, I'm your fire, your desire..."
    I cracked up. He was only like, 8 or something...

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  2. Glad you liked it, Maddie! I thought it was a pretty funny topic myself. My friend Curtis and I had blast discussing mondegreens that we'd been the victim of!

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  3. And by the way, Maddie... your nephew's mondegreen is HILARIOUS! The ones little kids come up with are always the funniest!

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  4. I had never heard of a mondegreen either, so thank you for posting about it. I know I've misheard lyrics a lot of times and that reminds me of Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs (I have it and even reread it ever so often when I need a good laugh).

    I can't think of any off the top of my head though, but I got a good laugh out of the ones you posted and Maddie! LOL Kids do come up with some funny ones.

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  5. Great blog! I've linked you on Inspiration, Ink. ;)

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  6. That's great! I'd seen the word recently but thought it had something to do with being earth-friendly. :) How's that for a mondegreen for you - in a wierd way? I had no idea there was an actual word for misheard stuff - too fun. And those are hilarious! I can't think of any at the moment, but I know I've done it so much...

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  7. The funniest one we repeat in my family was when my cousin learned about venereal disease. He came home telling us that you couldn't catch a venereal disease from a toilet seat or a door knob but you had to watch out for those intersections.

    Loved the blog. What a hoot!!
    Teresa Reasor

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  8. Tracy - Thanks for the link to Inspiration Ink! I already linked you ladies to my blog list!

    And thanks everyone for the comments! Glad you all enjoyed "Mondegreens"!

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  9. You gave a great explanation of "mondegreen." I learned the term in late 2007. One thing led to another, and now I’m the administrator of a flaky effort called Mandy Green Project, largely aimed at helping make "mondegreen" a household word. It involves a quirky novel written by MANDY GREEN (yep, a mondegreen of "mondegreen") whose story centers on a mondegreen ("Gesundheit Whistle" misheard as GAZOON HIGH TWIZZLE). Please check out the site and tell all your friends named MANDY GREEN. They'll particularly like the page "What is a mondegreen?", with a killer video full of 'em.

    I'm a native of Vermont, and this is my favorite mondegreen (from the Beach Boys' "Kokomo"):

    To Martinique, that Monserrat mystique

    misheard as

    Vermont’s unique, Vermont’s a rotten state

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