We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Mondegreen?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

In 1954, Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” to refer to a misheard phrase or song lyric. A mondegreen typically makes some sort of sense, and mondegreens are sometimes more famous than the original songs or statements that they came from. Many people are not familiar with the term, but the word and its origins are so delightful that they bear further investigation.

The story goes that one of Wright's favorite songs as a child was the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl O' Murray,” a song about the life and death of a real Scottish historical figure. At the end of the ballad, listeners are informed that the Earl of Murray is killed in a final couplet: “They have slain the Earl of Murray/And laid him on the green.” Wright misheard the last line as “And Lady Mondegreen,” which changed the meaning of the ballad dramatically.

After being informed that there was, in fact, no Lady Mondegreen involved in the ballad, Wright mused on the nature of accidental mishearings. She penned an essay about it, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” which was published in Harper's Magazine. The term might have faded into obscurity, but for the efforts of William Safire and John Carrol, two journalists who regularly featured mondegreens in their columns.

Most people can come up with examples of mondegreens from their own lives, and there are a number of well known mondegreens, such as “'scuse me while I kiss this guy” for “'scuse me while I kiss the sky” in Jimi Hendrix's “Purple Haze.” Others include “she wore raspberries and grapes” instead of “she wore a raspberry beret” in “Raspberry Beret,” a popular 1985 song by Prince. Johnny Rivers' “Secret Agent Man” is regularly misheard as “Secret Asian man,” while the Josés of the world are constantly confused about being asked if they can see in the first line of the Star Spangled Banner.

Learning that a familiar lyric or quote is a mondegreen can be quite a letdown, since mondegreens often have humorous double meanings. The routine inclusion of song lyrics in album releases has greatly cut down on the frequency of the musical mondegreen, but they do still creep in now and then. Mondegreens in phrases such as “a rocky leader” for “Iraqi leader” are also not uncommon, especially in rapidly delivered news releases. In many cases, a mondegreen relates to food, sexuality, or animals, suggesting that the subconscious may play a subtle role in misdirecting the mind when it comes to listening attentively.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.