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