So, I posted this picture of Della and her…um…interesting rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to Instagram yesterday.


“Mary had a little lamb, its fleas were white as snow.” Della, age 4

And I had a comment that basically just said the word, “Mondegreen.” And I was all, huh? Probably about how you’re feeling as you check out Della’s fuzzy earmuffs in the midst of the August heat (what can I say? Girl loves her some earmuffs).

So, naturally, I looked it up. And here’s what I discovered.

In 1954, an American writer named Sylvia Wright coined the term “mondegreen” in her essay entitled “Lady Mondegreen,” which was, apparently, a common mishearing/pronunciation of the phrase: “laid him on the green” in the Scottish ballad “The Bonnie Earl O’Moray.”


{Clearly, Della is shocked at her own linguistic faux pas}

Eventually, the word “mondegreen”–meaning the (mis)use of similar sounding words to substitute for the actual phrases in a song/lyric, thus changing the meaning of the song–was added to the dictionary. (Although my computer does not seem to have gotten that memo, since it insists on adding a squiggly red line to it each time I type it).

You may have found yourself drifting off a bit by now, but for me and my word-loving, grammar-geeky heart, this was a fascinating discovery.

If for no other reason than that I now know what I was doing when, as a child, I sang the words: “In Him we live and move and have our beans.” (Our being)

Or when my best friend, Ronda, sang: “God’s not dead. He is Elijah!” (He’s alive).

We were mondegreening. (Okay, so I don’t think it’s supposed to be used as a verb, but whatever. It’s a made up word ABOUT made up words. Who’s going to call me on it?)

I’m sure there are AAAAALLL kinds of other examples I could come up with if I tried really hard, but it’s late as I’m typing this, and I don’t have the brain-power to brush my teeth, much less wrack my brain for mondegreens from times gone by.

Which is where you come in. Did you Lady Mondegreen it up as a kid? Or maybe your own children have invented a few creative phrases of their own?

Be a dear, and share, won’t you?

P.S. Runners up from our FB page include: “Lead on, oh kinky turtle” (Oh King, Eternal) and “Gather around the thorny turtle” (throne eternal). Clearly, kids have pond creatures more than eternity on their minds.

P.P.S. Oh! I thought of a couple more “adult” ones. Ever heard the Taylor Swift song: “Blank Space?” Raise your hand if you thought the phrase: “Starbucks lovers,” is in it. (It’s not). Or how about an old throwback to Elton John and his “electric boobs” (electric boots) from Benny and the Jets??! Oooooh, I can already tell this is going to be fun(ny)!


  1. I always sang “take me down to the very last city” instead of “take me down to Paradise City” until last year (I was 29) my sister corrected me when I was telling her Slash sang it at a concert. She said the name of the song is Paradise City! LOL- I never new the title. 🙂

    I know there’s a ton more, but I’m drawing a blank.

  2. Hand raised on the Taylor Swift Starbucks lover mondegreen. Personal ones of mine were from childhood, singing hymns. One was “Who will follow Jesus? Who will make me cry (except I said ‘cwy’),” instead of “Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply?” The other was when I heard “Up from the gravy, a rose” in place of “Up from the grave He arose.” Why rose would come out of gravy I sure don’t know, but I still think about it. One that I never thought as a kid but now do thanks to my friends is, “Are you sowing the seed of the king, dumb brother?” instead of “the seed of the kingdom brother?”

  3. Mine : “go head big toe” instead of timber lake “go head be gone with it” and “it’s to late to call the John” instead of one republics “too late to apologize”.
    My 3-year olds “I love chocolate ice cream this I know for the Bible tells me so” – though I think she sang that on purpose lol and
    “Ride in the calories, shoot the artlary, I’m in the lords army” after I told her I had to log in my calories before we could play

  4. I’m seriously known for mondegreenin’. Known for it LOL!! My best was when I was dating husband. He had to correct me when I said “Till her Daddy takes her tea pot away.” It’s T-BIRD, not tea pot. (Insert face palm) he still teases me about it. LOL!!

  5. I don’t know who sings the song or what the title is but there’s a song on the Christian radio station that has “like an engine ready to explode”. It took me a long time (and maybe my husband’s correction) to figure out it was NOT ” like a ninja ready to explode “. It still sounds more like ninja to me.

  6. I’m sure I did that alot as a kid., but my favorite one of my friends told me was that one of her little girls at Christmas time would sing the sing the song Feliz Navidad but sing Please mommy mop instead. Lol

  7. So kid #6 who is 4 sings ba ba black sheep but he gives his wool to the boy down the drain. Not the lane. Ha! Makes me laugh just telling you.

  8. The other night my son (he’s four and a late talker) was saying The Lord’s Prayer before bed. He prayed, “Ow Fader, who out in heben, hallowed be Daddy.” I had to hide my face in the blankets because I was laughing so hard.

  9. My mother grew up Catholic and during the hail Mary you are supposed to say “Blessed are you amongst women” but when she was little she would say “A monk swimming.” Also when I was little during our doxology after the tithe we would sing “Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost” but I would sing “Gray’s father” that’s my dad’s first name and I mean God is his father! 😉

  10. When my son, Evan, was about 4 years old, he thought we were singing about how lovely he was when we would sing the hymn “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”. Every time we sing that song at church, my heart smiles a little bit.

  11. My sister was astonished to discover that the lyrics to a popular Beatles song were “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” instead of Lucy’s getting high with Linus.” She was 28 at the time!

  12. I love these! I can never hear Elton John’s Tiny Dancer without remembering how someone always thought the words were “hold me closer Tony Danza!” Hahaha!

  13. My daughter used to sing Keep the Ken Doll burning…to Point of Grace’s Keep the Candle Burning. Is she going to read this here today??

  14. You should check out the book called “‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy.” It’s a whole book of misheard lyrics/mondegreens and it makes me cry from laughing so hard.

  15. The opening lyrics of the Circle of Life (from the Lion King) are Zulu. One of the words is ‘ingonyama’ and is very drawn out in the song. In English, it sounds something like en-yaah-ho vwen-ya-maaaaa. My son lustily sang Pennnn-syl-vaania and was horrified when he learned, at about the age of 8 or 9, that we had never corrected him.

  16. I *LOVE* that I now know this word! Why yes, I am one of those freaky people that likes cruising the dictionary for new words, why do you ask? Our oldest daughter used to sing the Creedence Clearwater song as “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “bad moon on the rise”. And my very good friend grew up singing “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” instead of ” the cross I’ll bear”.

    Also, Della rocks those earmuffs!

  17. I know I have a ton, but of course now I can’t think of any. I do remember when I was young, we would tell my brother to stop being a know-it-all. He couldn’t understand why being a Noah doll was a bad thing. After all, Noah was in the Bible. He also sang the alphabet … H, I, J, K, ellemento, P, and when counting the letters, he counted ellemento as 1.

  18. I grew up singing “you and me and Leslie” thinking the song was about three people until my dad finally corrected me. It’s “you and me endlessly!” That makes so much more sense

  19. Love mondegreen! I am a nerdy, word lover too. 🙂 My mondegreen: “there’s a bad moon on the rise”… I seriously thought it was “there’s a bathroom on the right.” It really does make sense with the song!

  20. My 3 year old son was in a program at his school and the older kids were singing “Jesus, You’re My Firm Foundation”. He came home singing “Jesus, I burned the bacon” for weeks.

  21. My daughters, now 8 and 11, used to sing “Jesus, lovin’ up my soul” instead of “Jesus, lover of my soul”. Just two little words made it so much cuter to hear my babies singing about Jesus!

  22. Ok, I have 2 on myself… i KNEW they weren’t right but couldn’t figure out what else they were saying… “love like a mouse gets – gets when it’s not fed” (love like I’m not scared, give when it’s not fair) and “Father God I ain’t playing this game” (Father God I am clay in your hands). I basically never cared enough to look them up and then one day just had the ah-ha moment and realized what they were actually saying. Haha!!

    Also a friend’s little brother growing up used to sing “hair of salvation” (heir of salvation) but I think that was a beginner reader problem more than anything and let’s face it, we ALL wondered what “a peyonder” was!! (When the roll is called UP YONDER)

  23. no lady mondegreen here. this sweetie looks so much like you in one photo and another pose she looks like your hsb. this so amazes me about all your children. just simply a beautiful family.

  24. how about bringing the cheese, bringing in the cheese.we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the cheese. sheaves not cheese, this is one of my favorite stories my great grandmother told me about my father when he was a child singing in church.

I love hearing from you guys!