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Mondegreens – Misheard Lyrics

Mondegreens are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally used for misheard song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech. They are oronyms (homophones) which are discussed on a separate page of this site.

The term mondegreen was originally coined by author Sylvia Wright, and has come to be quite widely used. As a child, Wright heard the lyrics of The Bonny Earl of Murray (a Scottish ballad) as:

Ye highlands and ye lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray
And Lady Mondegreen

It eventually transpired that Lady Mondegreen existed only in the mind of Sylvia Wright, for the actual lyrics said that they "slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green." And to this day Lady Mondegreen's name has been used to describe all mishearings of this type!

Here is a selection of misheard lyrics from popular songs, hymns, and carols:

  • "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear."
       "Gladly The Cross I'd Bear."
       Traditional Hymn
  • "There's a bathroom on the right."
       "There's a bad moon on the rise."
       Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater
  • "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."
       "Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
       Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
  • "Dead ants are my friends; they're blowin' in the wind."
       "The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind."
       Blowin' In The Wind, Bob Dylan
  • "Midnight after you're wasted."
       "Midnight at the oasis."
       Midnight at the Oasis, Maria Muldaur
  • "The girl with colitis goes by."
       "The girl with kaleidoscope eyes."
       Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Beatles
  • "Sleep in heavenly peas."
       "Sleep in heavenly peace."
       Silent Night, Christmas carol
  • "I blow bubbles when you are not here."
       "My world crumbles when you are not here."
       I Try, Macy Gray
  • "I got no towel, I hung it up again."
       "I get knocked down, but I get up again."
       Tubthumping, Chumbawumba
  • "She's got a chicken to ride."
       "She's got a ticket to ride."
       Ticket to Ride, The Beatles
  • "You and me and Leslie."
       "You and me endlessly..."
       Groovin', The Rascals
  • "Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble; tres bien ensemble."
       "Sunday monkey won't play piano song, play piano song."
       Michelle, The Beatles
  • "I'll be your xylophone waiting for you."
       "I'll be beside the phone waiting for you."
       Build Me Up Buttercup, The Foundations
  • "Are you going to starve an old friend?"
       "Are you going to Scarborough Fair?"
       Scarborough Fair, Simon and Garfunkel
  • "Baking carrot biscuits."
       "Taking care of business."
       Takin' Care Of Business, Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • "Donuts make my brown eyes blue."
       "Don't it make my brown eyes blue."
       Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, Crystal Gale
  • "Got a lot of lucky peanuts."
       "Got a lot of love between us."
       Let's Hang On. Frankie Vallee and the Four Seasons
  • "What a nice surprise when you're out of ice."
       "What a nice surprise bring your alibis."
       Hotel California, Eagles
  • "Hope the city voted for you."
       "Hopelessly devoted to you."
       Hopelessly Devoted to You, Grease
  • "I'm a pool hall ace."
       "My poor heart aches."
       Every Step You Take, The Police
  • "Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby."
       "Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby."
       Angel of the Morning, Juice Newton

Related Pages

You might also be interested in taking a look at our oronyms section, and the malapropisms and mondegreens books page. See also our collections of malapropisms from celebrities, and from Richard Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop.

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