Today's secret word: "mondegreen"
I often feel like such a Johnny-Come-Lately, like by the time I find out about something, it’s soooo 10 minutes ago. So I suppose I’m the last person on earth to hear of the word mondegreen.
Dictionary.com defines mondegreen (pronounced mon-di-green) as “a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.” American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in an essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in November 1954 in Harper’s magazine. Referring to a 17th century poem that her mother read aloud to her as a child, the author tells how she misinterpreted the line "And laid him on the green" as “And Lady Mondegreen.”
My mother told me how when she was a kid, she misheard people referring to “the chest of drawers” as “the Chester drawers.” When my daughter was little, she thought a local newscaster went by the hip nickname “The Heat is On” until she was old enough to read and was shocked to see the name on the television screen was “Benita Zahn.”
Mondegreens often result from misinterpreted song lyrics, and they can be quite entertaining. My favorite mondegreen is the classic “There’s a bathroom on the right,” the line at the end of each verse of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” And of course we all wondered what was going on with Jimi Hendrix when he shouted, “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy!”
Both Creedence's lead singer, John Fogerty, and Hendrix eventually capitalized on their fans’ poor hearing (or was it their own inability to e-nun-ci-ate?) and deliberately sang the mondegreen versions of their songs in concert. Alone in the car, I always sing “There’s a bathroom on the right”; it’s simply more fun that way.
I had my own mondegreen version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” that, quite frankly, had me perplexed for decades:
"I'm not the man they think I am at homeBurning all the Jews I’ve ever known? Jeez, Elton... WTF? Then years later I looked up the real lyrics and was relieved to find the line is “Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.”
Oh, no, no, no... I'm a rocket man
Rocket man, burning all the Jews I’ve ever known”
Oh. That’s very different.
How about you? Any fun mondegreens to share? And did you even know there was such a word?