Mighty Red Pen

July 10, 2008

Free your Lady Mondegreen

Filed under: Pop culture,Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Well, thank goodness. We can finally use the words infinity pool, edamame, and dirty bomb, and rest easy knowing that the good people at Merriam Webster have given these and a few other lucky words their blessing.

How do they choose the new words? Well according to “Hold the prosecco, and pass the edamame“:

“As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language,” said Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster. “If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it’s ready to go in the dictionary.”

Among the new words of interest to MRP? Well, as a pescatarian, I was happy to see that finally make the cut. What’s a pescatarian, you ask? It’s a vegetarian who eats fish, or better, a person who maintains a mostly vegetarian diet but also eats fish.

However, I’ve been testing the word out on a few people and when I say, “I’m a pescatarian,” I am mostly met with blank stares and have to say, “I’m a vegetarian that eats fish” anyway. So I think that pescatarian needs some work still.

Another is mondegreen, a word for a word which is mistaken for another word. Misheard song lyrics fall under this category. Who (besides our friends at Language is the People’s and SPOGG) knew there was an actual word for this?

A mondegreen most often comes from misunderstood phrases or lyrics. It comes from an old Scottish ballad in which the lyric “laid him on the green” has been confused over time with “Lady Mondegreen.”

Merriam Webster is so tickled by this concept that apparently they’ll be having a contest for this, so that’s something to look forward to.

We’ve covered mondegreens here at MRP before but it’s always good for a chuckle.  I always thought they were singing “Free your Lady Marmalade” but apparently it’s “Creole Lady Marmalade.” Oh yeah, that makes more sense. Also, MRP gets endless amusement at Mister MRP’s expense out of pretending that the Style Council’s “Shout to the Top” really is saying “Shop ’til you drop!” (I swear it sounded like it at first.)

Another favorite mondegreen at la casa de MRP right now comes to us courtesy of D., age 28 months, who is quite sure it’s not “another postcard with chimpanzees” but “another postcard with pinzanees.” He’s sure of it.

Got a good one? Feel free to share.



  1. Hey MRP–great column. You might be interested in Grammar Girl’s podcast about spoonerisms, mondegreens, eggcorns, and malapropisms (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/spoonerisms-mondegreens-eggcorns-and-malapropisms.aspx). She even included an explanation of how the term was coined.

    Comment by Danielle Buczek — July 10, 2008 @ 8:27 pm | Reply

  2. song lyrics are always good for this:
    There’s a bad moon on the rise = There’s a bathroom on the right.
    Slipping into darkness = Slippin’ into dog mess.
    Obviously there are zillions of these…

    Comment by georgia girl — July 10, 2008 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  3. If you’re a pescatarian please don’t describe yourself as “a vegetarian that eats fish”. It’s such a horrible contradiction. Just say that you eat fish but not meat.

    Comment by Lynn Stephenson — July 11, 2008 @ 5:54 am | Reply

  4. @Danielle, Thanks for the tip. We heart Grammar Girl here!

    @Lynn, Yes, horribly enough, the MW definition is, in fact, “a vegetarian whose diet includes fish.” I agree, it’s a contradiction, which is why I offered “a person who observes a mostly veg diet but also eats fish.” In my own experience, I find that if I don’t lead with “I’m a vegetarian…” people need further explanation that no, I would not like an occasional hamburger. It’s an imperfect solution, I’m afraid, but one with which I’ve made peace after 17 years of being a pescatarian.

    Comment by mighty red pen — July 11, 2008 @ 8:13 am | Reply

  5. When I was little, I used to sing along to the song ‘Every Time You Go Away’ with the words “Every time you go away / you take a piece of meat with you” (instead of “…me with you”). Obviously not referring to you, oh pescatarian MRP!

    Comment by JD — July 11, 2008 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

  6. On hearing the latest Pussycat Dolls song on tv I thought they were singing:

    When I grow up
    I wanna see the world
    Drive nice cars
    I wanna have boobies

    However it’s not boobies it’s groupies. In my defense it is the Pussycat Dolls singing this so boobies really would not be out of the realm of possibility.

    Comment by Molie — July 12, 2008 @ 11:43 am | Reply

  7. I read a book once in which one of the characters (a kid–it was a kids’ book, and I was a kid) sings Christmas carols all wrong.

    “Good King Whatsisface backed out, on a piece of Stephen” is the one I remember most.

    I used to reread* the book just to find the mondegreens (and no, I didn’t know that term then; it was probably too early)

    Also remember–if a word is known by *everyone*, there’s no need to have a dictionary. Putting a word in the dictionary doesn’t mean that everyone knows and uses it. It means that *enough* people know and use it that other people will say, “what did she say?” often enough that you can justify the space in the dictionary bcs they may need to look it up.

    Comment by TootsNYC — July 17, 2008 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

  8. Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be Thy Name

    Comment by Win Bryant — August 26, 2008 @ 7:41 am | Reply

  9. […] – bookmarked by 6 members originally found by mrdutch730 on 2008-12-21 Free your Lady Mondegreen https://mightyredpen.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/free-your-lady-mondegreen/ – bookmarked by 1 members […]

    Pingback by Bookmarks about Lady — January 13, 2009 @ 7:00 am | Reply

  10. My favorite mondegreen is from “Kokomo” (Beach Boys):

    To Martinique, that Monserrat mystique

    misheard as

    Vermont’s unique, Vermont’s a rotten state

    I have a friend, Mandy Green, whose name is a mondegreen of “mondegreen.” She wrote a kids’ book, “Gazoon High Twizzle,” about a mondegreen of “gesundheit whistle,” which means whistling after a sneeze. See it in animation at GazoonHighTwizzle.com.

    Comment by Keith Eldred — February 24, 2009 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

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