1

Consider the following situation:

A & B are having a conversation. C overhears it.
Either A or B says something C considers controversial.
C later speaks about this in private, but has misheard.

Is there a single compound word that would cover this situation? I am thinking either 'overmisheard' or 'misoverheard':

"I'm sorry, I seem to haveovermisheardyou."

or

"I'm sorry, I seem to havemisoverheardyou."

The latter seems more likely to me, as we're applying the negative prefix 'mis-' (meaning 'incorrectly') to the action of overhearing. I've checked the dictionary but am unable to come conclusively to an existing word so I would like to if there is a word for this or the correct construction for a compound word if there isn't.

2

Misoverheard would be a more probable neologism.

First, while overheard is a common concept over- as a prefix wouldn't retain the sense of eavesdropping if added to misheard. In the Oxford English Dictionary, "over-, prefix," the over- in overhear or oversee is sense 1.o in a long list of senses (1.a through 1.n, and all the entries afterward to 3d). This indicates that other meanings would easily interfere with your intended one, like being spatially or temporally over something or doing something too many times.

Second, mis- would preserve the sense of mistaken action when applied to overheard. In the OED your intended sense is the first entry listed:

a. Prefixed to verbs, with sense ‘badly’, ‘wrongly’, ‘perversely’, ‘mistakenly’, ‘amiss’.

Mis- commonly does this even today. I could say misclicked, for instance, to mean I mistakenly clicked, just like I can say I misoverheard to say I mistakenly overheard. Over coinages would make sense: I misliked a social media post or mistweeted an update. However, saying I overclicked, overliked, or overtweeted would more likely lead people to think that I had clicked, liked, or tweeted too many times for a given function.

Finally, just to confirm which sense people go with more often, a Google search illustrates that misoverheard is occasionally used or coined with about 1890 results as of this writing, whereas overmisheard has 9 results, one of which is this question. That suggests misoverheard is far more likely to be understood in use.

  • Did you mean 'misoverhood' in your opening sentence, or was that a slip? – NinjaDuckie Jan 8 at 15:52
  • 1
    It was a Froodian slip. My bad. :) – TaliesinMerlin Jan 8 at 16:10
  • I wish people would explain downvotes when making them because aside of that now corrected error, I don't see anything wrong with your answer. – NinjaDuckie Jan 8 at 16:57
  • Alright, it's been a couple days so I'm marking as accepted. Thanks! – NinjaDuckie Jan 11 at 13:09

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