Monday, July 07, 2008

Congratulations, Mondegreen

Mondegreen has finally made it into the dictionary--a mere 54 years after it first appeared in print.

This comes from the AP story about new additions to Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary.

And then there's "mondegreen." In a category of its own, it describes words mistaken for other words. 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."

Among the best-known modern examples: "There's a bathroom on the right" in place of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "There's a bad moon on the rise" and "'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy" in place of "kiss the sky" in the 1967 Jimi Hendrix classic "Purple Haze." [NOTE: WE THINK "WRAPPED UP LIKE A DOUCHE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT IS FUNNIER THAN THESE EXAMPLES. CAN YOU NOT SAY "DOUCHE" IN A FAMILY PAPER?]

Mondegreen, first spotted in print in 1954, was among tens of thousands of words the wordsmiths watched for decades. That and others make the cut for the dictionary based on how widely they are used in publications ranging from newspapers to technical manuals.

We consider this a good thing, especially because "mondegreen" appears in our forthcoming book, Things That Make Us [Sic], along with a host of other things that might not have made the dictionary, including lolcat (we study the rules of this particular brand of kitty-pidgin).

We reviewed the index this morning; here is a partially marked-up snippet for the "egregious errors" entry:

We hope that makes you want to buy the book. It comes out in October, but you can order it in advance and save 32 percent. (At SPOGG, we are thrifty as well as grammatical.)

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