Word of the day


Mondegreen –  the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning; a word or phrase resulting from mishearing a word or phrase, especially in song lyrics.

Apropos of which, for years I thought Puff the Magic Dragon had a friend called Frolickin the Otomus (frolicked in the autumn mists).

Peter, Paul but no more Mary


The woman who was the Mary in Peter, Paul and Mary, has died.

Mary Travers was 72. I don’t think I ever saw her in a photo or on television, but I grew up with her voice and sang along to If I had a Hammer, Blown’ in the Wind and Puff the Magic Dragon.

I missed the politics in their songs – blame that on my youth at the time. And for years I thought Puff had a friend called Frolicin the Ottomus – blame that on my ears . I’m not sure when I worked out that they were singing Frolicked in the Autumn Mists.

I’d misheard the words. Other people thought there was a hidden meaning in the song, but the group put the record right on that in this version:

But I thought it was . . .


The mispronunciation of anemone as an enemy several times in a TV programme has inspired John Ansell to compile a list of the most mispronounced words in the English language.


I entered the conversation with a little hesitancy because there are a few words I mispronounced for years.


I was well into adulthood before I discovered halcyon was not haleycon (which I’d somehow associated with Haley Mills starring in a movie as a woman called Summer).


It was only while doing a radio book review that I realised it was badinage and not as I’d always read it bandiage (because I associated it with bandying words).


I could perhaps blame those two on the fact I’d seen them written but hadn’t heard them spoken. But that doesn’t explain why I thought the prayer my brothers & I recited every night was asking God to pity mice implicitly and not pity my simplicity.


Nor does it explain why I thought Puff the Magic dragon had a friend called Frolicin the Ottumis until someone pointed out to me that Peter, Paul and Mary had been singing frolicked in the autumn mists . . .  

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