Word of the Day

February 1, 2010 § 3 Comments

Subscribing to Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day emails is a wonderful way to start the day. Each morning, before I even get out of bed, I reach over to my blackberry to learn a new word. Today’s word is mondegreen, and it’s the best one I’ve learned in a while!

mon⋅de⋅green [mon-di-green]
–noun
a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.
Origin:
1954; coined by Sylvia Wright, U.S. writer, from the line laid him on the green, interpreted as Lady Mondegreen, in a Scottish ballad

Of course we’ve all experienced mondegreens, but how many of us knew there was a word for such an occurrence?

The most famous mondegreen song lyric has got to be “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy“, a song lyric by Jimi Hendrix, that really reads “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”, but my favourite has got to be Phoebe from ‘Friends” version of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” where she thinks he’s saying “Hold me closer, Tony Danza“.

And here’s a piece of history for ya: when Bob Dylan offered marijuana to The Beatles, he was surprised to find they had not tried it before; he had misheard the lyric “I can’t hide” in “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as “I get high“.

My sister had a number of mondegreens under her belt, and managed to use them without being corrected up until high school. She thought the windchill factor was called the windshield factor. She also thought fruit flies were called flute flies (she says she liked to picture tiny flies, making inaudible music.)

Not all mondegreens are mistakes though! Yes, there can also be deliberate mondegreens. For example, in the Britney Spears song “If U Seek Amy,” the lyric “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy” can easily be misheard as “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F-U-C-K me.” Who knew Britney possessed the skills to manipulate the English language so appropriately???

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