A mondegreen is a mishearing of a phrase (usually in a poem or song lyrics) as something else; the word itself is one of the best-known mondegreens: it comes from a mishearing of “And laid him on the green” as “And Lady Mondegreen”. Perhaps the best-known example is mishearing “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky” in the Jimi Hendrix Experience song Purple Haze as “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy”.

A cross-language mondegreen, then, would be a word/phrase uttered or sung in one language, which is being misheard as an unrelated word/phrase in another language.

Is there an English term for such a thing? And are there any quintessential, defining examples of it along the lines of the ‘kiss this guy’ one for English-only mondegreens?

  • 2
    Can you provide an example for what you mean?
    – Helmar
    Dec 27 '16 at 11:01
  • Not sounding sore, but I presume the question was clear. More so, I was actually asking for examples of cross-language mondegreens.
    – Monzoor
    Dec 27 '16 at 11:13
  • I'm not quite sure, actually, what you mean by “cross-language mondegreen”. Do you mean a phrase that is actually in one language but is being misheard as an unrelated phrase in another language? Dec 27 '16 at 11:17
  • 1
    @Monzoor Unfortunately, questions which seek examples are a poor fit for the Q&A structure of SE, and as such are broadly considered off topic. The question of whether there's a word for such mondegreens is legit, if you'd like to restrict your attention to just that topic (though I suspect the answer is "no"; but I've been wrong before and I will be wrong again).
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 27 '16 at 12:34
  • 1
    Surely the word for the phenomenon of mishearing is mondegreen. Why should a mishearing of a foreign phrase be any different? Indeed, why should a foreign phrase be misinterpreted as a phrase in your own language at all? A single example would help demonstrate that that misinterpretation does actually occur (and could therefore be named); but if it does and has a name I reckon that name is mondegreen. I don't believe English would borrow a word where it already has one.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 27 '16 at 18:51

I don't think this is a very commonly used term, but soramimi seems to fit:

interpreting lyrics in one language as similar-sounding lyrics in another language.

It is a Japanese term which is borrowed into English.

It has been, or still is, quite a hype in the Netherlands, where the phenomenon is known as 'Mama Appelsap' (lit. mom apple juice), a misheard lyrics from the bridge of Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Starting Something:

Ma me se, ma me sa, ma ma coo sa

  • Fabulous examples on the Superradio site. I am betting that this is a phenomenon that is less commonly recognized in English-speaking countries, because we don't tend to listen to a lot of music in other languages. Dec 27 '16 at 16:38
  • In fact, the only popular non-English songs I can think of in recent memory are Psy's Gangnam Style and O-Zone's Dragostea Din Tei, for which there were many "Mama Appelsapjes" noted by young listeners. At the time, I used the term "mondegreen" to explain it to my Top-40-fan daughter, because I had never heard another term. Dec 27 '16 at 16:42

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