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Ever Heard of a “Mondegreen”?

By Beverly Bowers January 30, 2023 Lifestyle

When I am driving, I like to listen to the radio and, if I am alone, that is the one place that I feel safe singing along. (If you can call what I do singing!) I belt out the words at the top of my lungs! I am embarrassed to say that I frequently misquote the actual lyrics. Sometimes it is just hard to understand the words of the artist, and I don’t stop to think if what I am saying makes sense. You too?

For example, Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze is often misquoted. “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” comes through as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” or “Excuse me while I p___ the sky.” The Beatles’ “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” is another. How could you hear, “Lucy’s in a fight, with Linus?” Or Elton John’s “Hold me closer, tiny dancer” as “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”? All of these are mondegreens.

What Is a Mondegreen?

According to an article in Newsweek Magazine, “the word mondegreen is defined as a misheard word or phrase that makes sense in your head, but is, in fact, incorrect. The term was coined in a November 1954 Harper’s Bazaar piece, where the author, Sylvia Wright, recalled a childhood mishearing. According to the author, when she was young her mother would read to her from a book called Reliques of Ancient Verse. Her favorite poem from the 1765 book went like this: ‘Ye Highland and Ye Lowlands / Oh where have you been? / They have slain the Earl O’Moray / And laid him on the green.’ Wright, however, heard the last line as ‘And Lady Mondegreen’.”

A mondegreen takes place when there’s a communication hiccup between what you hear and what your brain perceives. This is essentially what happens in the childhood game of telephone. As one friend whispers a word or phrase into another’s ear, it can become wildly distorted, and a totally different word or phrase can come out the other side.

The acoustic information that’s received and the interpretation a brain comes up with simply don’t match up. It’s not clear why this happens, it just does.

Common Mondegreens

Here are a few more mondegreens and I hope they make you chuckle as much as they did me.

We Built This City by Starship

“We built this city on sausage rolls”        

Correct: “We built this city on rock and roll”

Drift Away by Uncle Kracker

“Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul”         

Correct: “Give me the beat boys and free my soul”

Blank Space by Taylor Swift

“All the lonely Starbucks lovers”
Correct: “Got a long list of ex-lovers”

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

“Saving his life from this warm sausage tea”
Correct: “Spare him his life from this monstrosity”

Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In by Fifth Dimension

“This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus”
Correct: “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Mondegreens can also happen when everyday words and phrases are misheard. When my boys were little, they came up with some good mondegreens. Our trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park became Yellow Rocks Park (makes sense!) and aspen trees became aspirin trees.

Do you have a favorite? Share them with us below.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What is your favorite mondegreen? Please share it! Have you ever had an embarrassing experience with a mondegreen?

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When I was little I thought that black angus cows were called “black anglican cows”, much to the amusement of my parents and anyone else within earshot.


Credence Clearwater Revival
”There’s a Bad Moon on the rise”
”There’s a Bathroom on the right”


My son would sing ” make me a pile of love” when he was 7 instead of the the real words ” make me a higher love” ..always my favorite!

Last edited 1 year ago by Susan

I belonged to a church that was once led by a beloved Reverend Shelby. One of the songs went, in part “As it was in the beginning, is now an ever shall be…” A little boy in our congregation sang it as, “As it was in the beginning, is now and Reverend Shelby…” I, too, used to sing the wrong words to popular songs of my youth. Now I look them up online. Great article, by the way.

Lisa Stege

Oh, this is SO funny! Totally agree with the Hendrix song. My favorite is Creedence Clearwater’s “Bad Moon On The Rise”, sounding like “there’s a bathroom on the right”.
Another one is Bessame Mucho (sp?) makes me sing “bessame culo” (which means “kiss my ass”).

The Author

Beverly Bowers is a retired financial planner who has been solely responsible for her financial life over 25 years. Her passion is to make investments understandable – dispel the mystery and simplify the process. In 2021 she self-published a book, How to Dress a Naked Portfolio, a Tailored Introduction to Investing for Women. She relishes questions from all levels of investors. You may submit questions and sign up for her blogs on her website.

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