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Did you begin the school day by placing your right hand over your heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance? If you were among the many kids who thought “indivisible” was “invisible,” or “liberty” was “liver tea,” you were not alone. We don’t have a definition for liver tea, nor do we believe anyone would drink it, but this common misunderstanding of a phrase is called a mondegreen.

A mondegreen is a misinterpretation of  a word or phrase that shares homophony (sounds like) another word or phrase that has been heard.

Not to be confused with a malapropism, which is the unintentional improper use of a single word, mondegreens are often applied to a line in a poem or a lyric from a song – usually with amusing results.

Sylvia Wright, an American author, coined the term after a phrase she recalls mishearing as a young girl. According to Wright, the first stanza from the 17th century ballad “The Bonny Earl O’Moray” goes a little something like this:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where have ye been?
They have slain the Earl O’Moray
And Lady Mondegreen.

The correct phrasing of the fourth line is actually, “And laid him on the green.” As Wright points out, many times mondegreens can seem to be of superior quality to the actual words.

James Gleick, an American author and journalist, believes the mondegreen is a distinctly modern event. “Without improved communication and standardization of language which accompanies it, there would have been no way for this shared experience to have been recognized and discussed.”

Some popular mondegreens include:

“‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” (‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky from “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix)
“Alex the seal” (Our lips are sealed from “Our Lips Are Sealed” by the Go-Go’s)
“Hold me closer Tony Danza” (Hold me closer tiny dancer from “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John)

An example of a reverse mondegreen is Iron Butterfly’s 1968 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” which was originally titled “In the Garden of Eden.”

Now it’s your turn – share some of your favorite mondegreens, below. What did you believe were the words to the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star-Spangled Banner?

FEDS MUM ON TRAVEL PACT INDICTMENT.(FRONT)

The Capital Times March 23, 2006 Byline: Ryan J. Foley Associated Press Federal prosecutors defended their indictment of a state worker Wednesday, saying she rigged the bidding process so a travel contract would go to a company that donated to Gov. Jim Doyle. see here bidding for travel

But the prosecutors declined to spell out in more detail the allegations against Georgia Thompson, a Department of Administration purchasing supervisor, despite calls to do so.

Thompson was indicted on federal fraud charges in January. Prosecutors say she used her position on a committee that evaluated bids for a state travel contract to steer the deal to Adelman Travel Group. Adelman executives gave $20,000 to Doyle’s campaign before and after the deal worth up to $750,000 was awarded.

Thompson, of Waunakee, has pleaded not guilty, and her attorney, Stephen Hurley, has asked a judge to dismiss the charges. Hurley argued in his motion for dismissal that Thompson did not gain financially from her actions and that Adelman was awarded the contract because the company had the lowest bid, saving taxpayers’ money.

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic in Milwaukee responded in a motion on Wednesday, saying Thompson’s “politically motivated bid-rigging” undermined good government and broke federal law. He said Thompson inflated scores for Adelman, encouraged other committee members to do the same and prevented them from awarding the contract to another firm. biddingfortravelnow.net bidding for travel

Biskupic wrote that Thompson pushed the contract to Adelman to improve her job security and to benefit her supervisors politically, putting private gain above the public interest. Thompson’s argument that Adelman had the lowest bid is beside the point because her actions amounted to crimes, Biskupic argued.

William Lipscomb, a spokesman for Biskupic, said, “We’re going to try the case at the time of the trial.” Trial is scheduled for May 15.

956 Comments

  1. KdG -  April 11, 2014 - 9:00 am

    Recently, Belvita has begun airing a commercial with a catchy tune, all about how a woman had a great day because she ate their biscuits. The song ends with a chirpy “morning win”, but every single time I hear ” morning wood”.

    Reply
  2. Filippo -  January 17, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    Hi, I often laught thinking at a very simple sentence, used on books here in Italy when you teach English to pupils:

    “Look: my pen is on the table!”

    I can’t help imaging it as

    “Look my penis on the table!” :)

    Reply
  3. Matthew R. -  January 12, 2014 - 5:07 am

    The Metallica song “No Leaf Clover” has a pair of lines that go like this:

    “Good day to be alive, sir.
    Good day to be alive, he says.”

    My fraternity from college was called “Lancer” and we were based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, so in my head I’ve always heard:

    “Good day to be a Lancer,
    Good day to be a Knight, he says.”

    Reply
  4. circuit -  January 11, 2014 - 7:44 pm

    Greetings! I’ve been following your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a
    shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep
    up the fantastic work!

    Reply
  5. Louie -  December 3, 2013 - 5:35 pm

    It’s really a cool and useful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Bryan -  September 23, 2013 - 11:21 pm

    Not for a song, but something that used to pass on TV back in the 90s. I can only remember this on Nickelodeon, but it’s possible that other channels used it, too.

    When saying what the next shows would be, they would the next show, then say, “Followed by…” and the next show after.

    I always heard “Bollowed by…”

    Reply
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