Mondegreens (Anguished Titles)


In the early 1990s, I was an archivist at a small college and had student assistants working with me. I asked the students to help logging tapes in the archives—essentially recordings of oldtime music. When I saw what some of the students were writing down from mishearing things on the tapes I began to collect their often amusing interpretations. For lack of anything better, I called these "anguished titles" after hearing about a book someone had written about the ways people were misusing English. A few years later I was exchanging some emails with friends about this phenomenon, and was delighted when Bruce Baker forwarded me the following that he'd received from Keith Dunn:

WHAT IS A MONDEGREEN?

A mondegreen is a lyric which is heard incorrectly. For example, "The Ants Are My Friends"
is a mondegreen for "the answer, my friends, is blowin' in the wind." The word "mondegreen"
was coined by Sylvia Wright, who wrote a column about them in the fifties, when she recounted
hearing a Scottish folk song, "The Bonny Earl Of Morray." She heard the lyric, "Oh, they have slain
the Earl o' Morray and laid him on the green" as "Oh, they have slain the Earl o' Morray and
Lady Mondegreen." Arguably, the most famous mondegreen of all time is Jimi Hendrix' "'scuse
me while I kiss this guy" for "'scuse me while I kiss the sky".

In the table below, the titles in caps are among my favorites for sheer genius.

Another mondegreen that Bruce Baker sent me was "I'm Choking, Farewell" for "Ashokan Farewell."

Mondegreen Source
A Gypsy Dawg Gypsy Davy
Ace of January Eighth of January
Ain't Got Time to Stop and Carry Ain't Got Time to Stop and Tarry
Angel and a Baby Angeline the Baker
Bear Fast Boy with Boots On Barefoot Boy with Boots On
Blackjack Baby Blackjack Davy
Bole Deram Bull Durham
BROWN STRING Brown's Dream
Can't Come Back The Cat Came Back
Charles Rostag [Charles Ross Taggart - person]
Cheatham County Rider Cheatham County Rag
Cinncinati Gal Susannah Gal
CONCRETE AND THE ROSE Convict and the Rose
Crackling Hen Cackling Hen
Crickedest Creek and a Hard Rock Cricket a Creakin' on a Hearth Rock
Eupiney Mountain Yew Piney Mountain
Flowers of Ember Flowers of Edinburgh
FORKED DUCK Forked Buck
Giddy Along Kitty Alone
Gold Watch and Chair Gold Watch and Chain
Gragel Hornpipe Grey Eagle Hornpipe
Grandpa Whitten [Grayson and Whitter]
Green Fork Blues Green Ford Blues
Haulin' Poplar Hollow Poplar
Hen at the Springhouse Hannah at the Springhouse
HOME GIRL Orphan Girl [!]
I Saw Your Saddest Horse [Dear John] "I'll send your saddle home..."
Iowa Sinner Ioway Center
Jane Ford Train 45
LABASTROMY La Bastringue
Ladies and Gentlemen Hornpipe Ned Kendall's Hornpipe
Ladies Western Ladies' Waist Ribbon
Lady Ileen and the Awesome Knight Lady Eileen and the Elf Knight
LADY ISABEL AND THE HALF NIGHT Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight
Lady Upstairs Gettin' Upstairs
Lyin' in the Mines Nine Hundred Miles
MADE IN BEDLAM Maid in Bedlam
Martha Gambrel Martha Campbell
Mighty Walker Blues Maggie Walker Blues
Molly Gray Polly Grand
MONEY MUSIC Money Musk
MOTT, THE CAMEL Martha Campbell
Nate Creek Cane Creek
O'Keefe's Love O'Keefe's Slide
OLD LANG ZION Auld Lang Syne
Old Time Barnabus Old Blind Barnabus [Bartemus?]
PEACE CORPS BLUES Police Court Blues
POMPOUS NASH Pompey Smash
Portsmouth Heir Portsmouth Airs
RANDOM AUDITORIUM [Ryman Auditorium]
ROCK CHINA WALTZ Roxana Waltz
RUNNING BARE Running Bear
Sadie Rose Shady Grove
Sarah Johnson Sally Johnson
SEND IN THE SUMMERTIME Cindy in the Summertime
Sewing on the Mountain Sowing on the Mountain
Sheldon Rock Shelvin' Rock
Shell of a Rock Shelvin' Rock
Snowbird Dash Back Snowbird on the Ashbank
Stanton Island Hornpipe Staten Island Hornpipe
Sugar on the Floor Sugar in the Gourd
Sugarfoot Bradley Sugarfoot Rag
TEA FOR TEXAS T for Texas
The Wife of Pusser Swell The Wife of Usher's Well
Waiting for the Good Land Waiting for the Boatsman
We've Learned Sweet Fern
When It's Planting in the Valley When It's Lamplighting Time in the Valley
When Mother Wheels the Shingle When Mother Wields the Shingle
WHERE THE SOLE OF MAN NEVER DIES Where the Soul of Man Never Dies
Wistalia Waltz Westphalia Waltz
WRECKLESS MOTORMAN Reckless Motorman
Yellow Barbara Yellow Barber
YOUR SQUALL IS ON THE WARPATH TONIGHT You're Squaw is on the Warpath