Mondegreen

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A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, typically a standardized phrase such as a line in a poem or a lyric in a song, due to near homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.[1][2]

American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954.[3]

"Mondegreen" was included in the 2000 edition of the Random House Webster's College Dictionary. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary added the word in 2008.[4][5]

Rap and hip-hop lyrics may be particularly susceptible to being misheard because they are often improvised and frequently lack an official, written version. This issue gained publicity in 2010 over multiple errors claimed in lyrics printed in the Anthology of Rap, printed by Yale University Press.[6]

Mondegreens occur in languages other than English. In Russia Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1875 ironically cited a line from Fyodor Glinka's song "Troika" (1825) колокольчик, дар Валдая (‘the bell, gift of Valday’) claiming that it is ever comprehended as колокольчик, дарвалдая (‘the bell darvaldaying’ - the onomatopoeia verb for ringing).[7] Ghil'ad Zuckermann cites the Israeli example mukhrakhím liyót saméakh (‘we must be happy’) instead of (the high-register) úru akhím belév saméakh (‘wake up, brothers, with a happy heart’), from the well-known song Háva Nagíla (Let’s be Happy) ."[8] A collection of items submitted by Hindi speakers (and relating mainly to songs in Bollywood movies) is available online.[9]

A closely related category is the soramimi, which are songs that produce different meanings from those originally intended when interpreted in another language.[10]

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