Feb 12, 2016

Mondegreens, Malapropisms, and Eggcorns

A mondegreen is a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of another word or phrase that we hear. Mondegreens sound like the original wording, but often change the meaning of the word or phrase entirely. The term mondegreen is usually applied to misheard song lyrics or lines of poetry, but can also refer to other types of speech. For example, someone might hear the sarcastic saying “Thank you, Captain Obvious” as “Thank you, Katherine Obvious.”

A malapropism is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsense, or humorous utterance. Yogi Berra was a master of this, saying things, such as "Texas has a lot of electrical votes," rather than "electoral votes". Another example is “dance the flamingo” instead of “dance the flamenco.”

Eggcorns are an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease" or "mating name" instead of "maiden name."

If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, that person has committed a mumpsimus.