Monday, July 7, 2008

New Words in New Dictionary: Have a Mondegreen?


The dictionary and AP Stylebook are often cited as two essential sources for government communicators that write news releases. Merriam-Webster keeps its dictionary fresh by adding new words each year. CNN reports there are about 100 new words this year.

"Many of the new entries reflect the nation's growing interest in the culinary arts, including prosecco (a sparkling Italian wine) and soju (a Korean vodka distilled from rice). Others define new technology or products, such as infinity pool -- an outdoor pool with an edge designed to make water appear to flow into the horizon.

Others reflect current events and much-discussed news topics, including dirty bomb (a conventional bomb that releases radioactive material) and Norovirus (small, round single-stranded RNA viruses, such as the Norwalk Virus)."

Perhaps the most fun new word is "mondegreen," which Merriam Webster defines and explains as follows:

("a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung") has delighted wordplay aficionados for years. Mondegreen was first coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954 in Atlantic magazine, when she confessed to a childhood misinterpretation of the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Moray." When she first heard the lyric "they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green," she felt terribly sorry for the "poor Lady Mondegreen."

A few more examples:

The ants are my friends = the answer my friend/is blowin’ in the wind
Bob Dylan, "Blowin’ in the Wind"

There’s a bathroom on the right = there’s a bad moon on the rise
Credence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"

Hold me closer, Tony Danza = hold me closer, tiny dancer
Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"

They've even created a Web site so we can submit our favorite lyrical mistakes.

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