Date: Mon, 14 Oct 1996 10:05:54 +0600


Subject: Re: Mondegreens

At 02:49 PM 10/11/96 EDT, Larry Horn wrote:

The last time we discussed mondegreens, according to my files, was in October

'95. During this discussion, someone mentioned that Steven Pinker (_Language

Instinct_) attributes this coinage to the columnist Jon Carroll, based on his

own mishearing of the ballad "The Bonnie Earl O'Moray" ('They have slain the

Earl O'Moray/And laid him on the green').

This may be helpful -- from Jon Carroll's home page at

(column dated 2/16/95)

THIS IS AN odd-numbered year, so it is once again time for a complete

explication of the origin of the word ``mondegreen.'' Some of you are new

to the area or to this column; some of you have shockingly bad memories;

some of you just like hearing the story told over and over again.

And I love typing it. Don't get me wrong.

As a child, the writer Sylvia Wright heard a plaintive Scottish ballad

titled ``The Bonny Earl of Murray.'' One stanza, she believed, went like


Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands/ Oh Where hae you been?/ They hae slay the

Earl of Murray/ And Lady Mondegreen.

How romantic, she thought, Lady Mondegreen perishing with her lord in the

fierce, romantic wars of medieval Scotland. It was only much later that she

realized that they had actually slain the Earl of Murray and ``laid him on

the green.''

She began to collect similar mishearings of song lyrics, poems, patriotic

utterances and the like, and in 1954 published a small article about them,

coining the word ``mondegreen.'' Then she died and 30 years passed and,

voila, a columnist in San Francisco discovered the term and founded a small

cottage industry -- the collection and dissemination of mondegreens.