Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Variety Of Mondegreens?

There must be a proper name for this phenomenon. I know what a Mondegreen is [eg the Prairie Tortoise so often mentioned in churches] a word read aloud, which is heard wrongly

prairie tortoise

…but what I am struggling to define is when the word which gets read aloud wrongly in the first place. Often it is a word which has one spelling, but can be pronounced in two ways – each having an alternate meaning. Common ones are


The prince gave a deep bow, and the princess tied a bow in her hair

prince bow


The miserable girl moped round the house while her boyfriend rode away on his moped.



The snake began to slough off his old skin as the horse sank down into the slough



Reading station was full of commuters reading their newspapers



The congregation sat with their mouths agape as the preacher declared that he no longer believed in agape, the love of God.


But there are other words which sit there on the page and just refuse to make proper sense. Many of us have been mizzled by misled, I am sure!

And the current ‘synthetic phonics’ approach to teaching reading is no help whatsoever, because English is such a gloriously irrational language.

My little rant has been brought on because I came across a word the other day which I just could not work out. The word was


was it




or what?

it appears there was an optional hyphen missing, and the word was actually


to rhyme with wild, i.e. made into an island. [Apologies to all you Matthew Arnold scholars, who have read ‘To Margeurite’ and so knew the word already]

matthew arnold

I have never been that fond of MA’s poetry myself, or maybe I’d have encountered this word before.

But somebody tell me [Liz, do you know?] what this sort of mispronunciation is called?

Some are often deliberate – picturesque as picture-skew and antique as anti-queue.

Our family refers to Spud-U-Like as Spudd-oo-lickay.

Are there deliberate mispronunciations in your family?

…and please don’t point out to me that enisle is an anagram of senile, I am feeling enough of a dotty old lady already!


  1. Living in a bilingual country gives us more scope!
    Maple syrup is 'sirop d'erable' in French, so we call it 'orrible syrup'.
    Cinnamon is 'cannelle' we call it cannelly.
    Moving on to English;
    knife = kerniff
    scissors = skisoise
    lights = lidgits
    when we pass a field we comment if it has been 'pluffed'.
    (There are more)
    Well, Angela, you did ask!
    Jane x

  2. Hmm, suddenly the mind goes blank! The I recall those I susepct everyone else uses too...

    knife = ker-nirr
    scissors = skissers
    Morecambe = Mo-re-cam-bee
    Radio Times = rad-ee-o-te-mees
    spoon = poon (flippin poon by my late father)
    handerkerchief = honker-chief (or hinker-grolly by my brothers)
    etiquette = hetty quetty

    On a slightly different tack, blackcurrant based fruit drinks known as 'purple squash' or 'purple juice', hence blackcurrants becomes 'purples'

    A friend's family call gherkins crocodiles

    My niece, aged 3 (now 25!) called pickles skiffles

  3. anemone = annie moan
    epitome = eppy tome

    and a more theological one:
    pericope - perry cope
    told by mrpastasmissus it was per-is-co-pee we then went past a shop with a periscope in the window.....
    (a pericope is "a discrete portion of scripture" (mrPM) or "a chunk" (me))

    how about the station Burntisland?
    I thought it was burnt - is - land, but it's actually burnt - island

    oh, and in Yorkshire, mizzle is very fine rain

  4. Andy was looking at a flat last week Estate agent Readings!


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