Mondegreens and Oronyms

(a collection of misheard words and sentences)

mondegreen (s) (noun), mondegreens (pl)
A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric: "I led the pigeons to the flag" for "I pledge allegiance to the flag."

The term mondegreen; is a series of words resulting from the mishearing of a statement or a song lyric and it is generally attributed to Sylvia Wright, who is credited with coining the neologism in a 1954 Harper magazine column.

Ms. Wright was unhappy to discover that for many years she had misunderstood the last line of the first stanza in the Scottish folk ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray", which is written as:

Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands,
Oh! Where ha'e ye been:
They ha'e slain the Earl of Murray,
And they laid him on the Green.

Ms. Wright misheard this stanza as:

Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands,
Ye Highlands and ye Lawlands,
Oh! Where ha'e ye been:
They ha'e slain the Earl of Murray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

From the disappearance of Sylvia Wright's tragic heroine, Lady Mondegreen, came the term for describing many unconventional interpretations or understandings of oral repetition, usually in the form of song lyrics.

Mondegreens are considered to be the opposite of malapropisms because they result from something being misheard rather than being misspoken

Here are a few misheard phrases and song lyrics:

  • Misheard: "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."
    Spoken: "Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
    Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
  • Misheard: "There's a bathroom on the right."
    Spoken: "There's a bad moon on the rise."
    Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater
  • Misheard: "The girl with colitis goes by."
    Spoken: "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes."
    Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Beatles
  • Misheard: "Crimean River."
    Spoken: "Cry Me a River."
    Cry Me a River, Julie London
  • Misheard: "Bring me an iron lung."
    Spoken: "Bring me a higher love."
    Higher Love, Steve Winwood
  • Misheard: "Mama don't take my clothes 'n' throw 'em away."
    Spoken: "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
    Kodachrome, Paul Simon
  • Misheard: "You make the best homemade stew around."
    Spoken: "You make the best of what's still around."
    When The World Is Running Down, The Police
oronym (s) (noun), oronyms (pl)
Sentences that can be read in two ways with the same sounds; also called, "mondegreens or junctures: "A simple example of an oronym would be the sentences: The sons raise meat; heard as: The sun's rays meet."

Mistakenly hearing an oronym in a song or poem instead of the actual text is referred to as a mondegreen.

Examples of oronyms

The stuffy nose can lead to problems.
The stuff he knows can lead to problems.
Where is the spice center?
Where is the spy center?
Are you aware of the words you have just uttered?
Are you aware of the word you have just stuttered?
That's the biggest hurdle I've ever seen.
That's the biggest turtle I've ever seen.
I'm taking a nice cold shower.
I'm taking an ice cold shower.
Reading in the library is sometimes allowed.
Reading in the library is sometimes aloud.
You'd be surprised to see a mint spy in your bank.
You'd be surprised to see a mince pie in your bank.
—Examples presented by Gyles Brandreth in his, The Joy of Lex,
William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1980; Pages 58 and 59.

Additional examples of oronyms

The boy saw some grey pants.
The boy saw some grape ants.
She was thinking how cleaning's tough.
She was thinking how cleaning stuff.

Links to related empty, vacant words This link will take you to unit of -onym, -nym words.