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Mar 12, 2001
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Words from AWAD archives

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mondegreen (MON-di-green) noun

A word or phrase resulting from mishearing a word or phrase.

[Coined by American author Sylvia Wright in 1954 from the line "laid him on the green," interpreted as "Lady Mondegreen," in the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray."]

"`Do you have a cute back pain?' asks the announcer on a television commercial, and the listener must recall the homophone acute. In 1994, Disney promoted `The Lion King' as its `new 30-second animated feature'; what sounded like an incredibly short cartoon was actually an impressive achievement: a follow-up to the studio's 31st animated film. For the most frightening mondegreen, consider this statistic given last year by a nutritionist on `Good Morning America:' `The average American will gain 47 pounds during the holidays.' (Lighten up; the actual prediction was `4 to 7 pounds.')"
Jeffrey McQuain, Our Language is Getting So Colorful, The Houston Chronicle, Aug 11, 1996.

This week marks Wordsmith's septennial. Seven years ago, on March 14, 1994, we mailed our first word to a group of friends. Today's AWAD is being emailed to 400,000 linguaphiles in more than 195 countries. Seven years after we set off on our mission to share with others our love for the music and magic of words, we are still captivated by the sound and stories of words.

To mark the anniversary, we'll revisit a few words about words that have evoked tremendous response from the world's linguaphiles. You are welcome to share your original examples illustrating these words on the bulletin board or email them to garg AT wordsmith.org. We'll compile them in a mailing next week. -Anu


We should measure affection, not like youngsters by the ardour of its passion, but by its strength and constancy. -Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator, writer (106-43 BCE)

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