Mistakes and Mondegreens

Mondegreens are delightful things. As a child I was constantly fooled into making them.

What, you ask, is a mondegreen? Coined many years ago by a magazine columnist, it's a word to explain misheard lyrics. So say the smart snoops at snopes (who provide some hilarious Christmas mondegreens). The model for the mondegreen was a line from a Scottish folk ballad. "And they laid him on the green," sounded convincingly like, "And Lady Mondegreen."

As a child I was enthralled by the Beatles song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Only, I wasn't sure what colitis was. I just knew, somewhere, "A girl with colitis goes by."

Another mondegreen from my childhood was, "High Shottin' Sherri." I could just see that girl, Sherri. She was a real high shot. ("I Shot the Sheriff.")

When my youngest daughter was four, she saw "The Sound of Music," and sang with her older sister, "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye." Breanna never questioned, but heartily belted out, "So long, farewell, our feet are saying goodbye." I mean - it made sense.

I'm sure I have many more, scattered throughout my journals. All of these colorful tidbits amount to one thing. They are mistakes. As Lee, my watercolor teacher says: "Use your mistakes." In the case of mondegreens, these wonderful mistakes make us laugh and see the world through a child's eyes.

When we make a mistake, our tendency is to cover it up, throw it away. But in truth, a mistake is an inside-out, backwards version of something useful. It might be trying to tell you something. A mistake in a painting can take you in an entirely different direction. A mistake in writing can reveal truth.

Save a mistake. Discover its charm. Laugh if it's silly.


  1. Ms. Encourager of Writers, I have a writer for you to encourage: Mandy Green. Yep, her name is a mondegreen of "mondegreen," and her first novel centers on a mondegreen—"Gesundheit whistle" misheard as "Gazoon High Twizzle." I’m the administrator of a flaky effort called Mandy Green Project, largely aimed at helping make "mondegreen" a household word but also trying to use Mandy's novel to raise money for the local library. Please check out the site and tell all your friends named MANDY GREEN. They'll particularly like the page "What is a mondegreen?", with a killer video full of 'em.

    I'm a native of Vermont, and this is my favorite mondegreen (from the Beach Boys' "Kokomo"):

    To Martinique, that Monserrat mystique

    misheard as

    Vermont’s unique, Vermont’s a rotten state

  2. Hilarious, Keith! Nice site. Sounds wonderful. Good luck on the new library building. Would it help to expand the search to friends named Monte Green?

  3. Dang, good idea! We'll call it the christikrugian variation. That'll be the next change on the site, and the next news for the Facebook Group (hope you join).



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