a word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of another word or phrase, especially in a song or poem.
Mondegreen was coined by the U.S. writer and humorist Sylvia Wright (1917-81), who wrote in an article in Harper’s Magazine: “When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember: ‘Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, / Oh, where hae ye been? / They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen,’” the last line being a child’s mishearing and consequent misunderstanding of “laid him on the green.” Ms. Wright persisted in her idiosyncratic version because the real words were less romantic than her own (mis)interpretation in which she always imagined the Bonnie Earl o’ Moray dying beside his faithful lover Lady Mondegreen.
HOW IS MONDEGREEN USED?
We’ve been misunderstanding song lyrics for decades, Elton John’s “hold me closer, Tony Danza”—er, “tiny dancer”—included. These funky musical mishearings even have their own name: mondegreens.
We still have mondegreen moments. Even though I know Creedence Clearwater Revival is singing, “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” lately it sounds suspiciously like “There’s a bathroom on the right.