Mondegreens Revisited

David K. Israel

I've written about mondegreens on this blog before. A misheard, or made-up lyric, is called a mondegreen, after Lady Mondegreen. But who is Lady Mondegreen? Well, she's a misheard lyric herself from an ancient Scottish ballad called "The Bonny Earl of Murray." The last two lines of the original lyric go like this:

They have slain the Earl of Murray, And they layd him on the green.

The American writer, Sylvia Wright, is the one who misheard the lyric when she was a child and wrote about it years later, coining the word mondegreen for this first time in a Harper's Magazine essay published in 1954.

So okay, "Lady Mondegreen." Not so funny, but the ballad is over 300 years old. Much funnier, perhaps, is the mondegreen used in the TV show, Friends, when Phoebe mishears the words of a certain Elton John song and sings, "Hold me closer Tony Danza."

Since I last wrote about mondegreens, a Web site has popped up called, an archive of funny misheard lyrics. Of course, the name of the site comes from Hendrix's "Purple Haze." The original lyric is "Excuse my while I kiss the sky." Hence, kiss this guy. Anyway, check out the site for some good laughs. And now my favorite part of the post! All you new _flossers: this is your chance to shine. Surely you've misheard a lyric or two over the years. Tell us in the comments below!