Friday, 28 September 2007


As a child, the writer Sylvia Wright heard a plaintive Scottish ballad entitled `The Bonny Earl of Murray’. One stanza, she believed, went like this: “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands/ Oh Where hae you been?/ They hae slay the Earl of Murray/ And Lady Mondegreen.”

How romantic, she thought, Lady Mondegreen perishing with her lord in the fierce, romantic wars of medieval Scotland. It was only much later that she realized that they had actually slain the Earl of Murray and ``laid him on the green.''

She began to collect similar mishearings of song lyrics, poems, patriotic utterances and the like, and in 1954 published a small article about them, coining the word ``mondegreen.'' Then she died and 30 years passed and, voila, a columnist in San Francisco discovered the term and founded a small cottage industry -- the collection and dissemination of mondegreens.

....We believe that the most frequently submitted Mondegreen is still "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear" (known in the real world as that fine old hymn "Gladly The Cross I'd Bear"). A close second is "There's a bathroom on the right," a mishearing of "There's a bad moon on the rise" from the old Creedence Clearwater song "Bad Moon Rising."

Third place is still firmly held by "Excuse me while I kiss this guy," actually "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" from the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze." Mr. Hendrix was himself aware that he had been Mondegreened, and would occasionally, in performance, actually kiss a guy after saying that line.

Fourth place is probably occupied by Round John Virgin, a Shakespearean figure occasionally found in "Silent Night." Also high on the charts is a Mondegreen from "Groovin'", a popular song of an earlier era. (Kids, "groovin'" was kind of like "chillin'" except the clothing fit more tightly).

In that song, the Rascals were singing "You and me endlessly," but many people heard "You and me and Leslie," leading to speculation about the exact identity of Leslie and the popularity of multiple couplings in the music world.

Jon Carroll - San Francisco Chronicle

And ScriptorSenex's favourite - The great Crystal Gayle song "Doughnuts Make Your Brown Eyes Blue."

1 comment:

  1. If you'd like more descriptions of weird language/grammar constructs and like podcasts then I'd recommend the Grammar Girl podcast, she covered Mondegreens, Spoonerisms, Eggcorns, and Malapropisms in #62



Hello - thanks for dropping by to leave a comment. Your comments are much appreciated even if I don't always reply. They will appear as soon as they have been moderated.

Blog Archive