Is there a name for the type of wordplay that involves moving the break between two words (while maintaining roughly the same phonetics)?

Some of the most common examples of what I'm talking about would be "Donkey Hodie" (they moved the word break from "Don Quixote") or "Hugh Janis" (the break was moved from "huge anus").

Basically, I'm talking about humorously cutting off the end of one word and adding it to the beginning of the next word, or cutting off the beginning of one word and adding it to the end of the previous word. The spelling may change, but the sounds are about the same.

I would like to be able to say "Donkey Hodie is a (something) of Don Quixote," but I don't know if there's any word that fills in the (something).


3 Answers 3


Generically, these can be considered malapropisms (if unintended) or puns (if intended). A malapropism is a humorous error where one substitutes one word or phrase for another that sounds similar (Wikipedia). Malapropism often involves mishearings that function by breaking up words differently ("the winter of our discount tent" for "the winter of our discontent"). Puns are similar but intentional, playing with multiple meanings or interpretations of a word or phrase ("You can tune a guitar, but you can't tuna fish," quoted in "Pun," Wikipedia).

If you wanted to be more specific, you could say it's a homophonic pun, meaning that the wordplay involves same-sounding words or phrases (Donkey Hodie, Don Quixote; tuna fish, tune a fish; discount tent, discontent) parsed differently.

Your example is not a redivider because redividers rely on letter spacing alone, whereas "Donkey Hodie" breaks up Don Quixote phonetically rather than letter by letter (it isn't "Donqui Xote").

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    Then there is also a heterophemism, the unconscious tendency to use words other than those intended. Oh, and don't forget to give Mrs. Malaprop her props. She was a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's novel "The Rivals", and she was prone to such uses. Jul 18 at 16:27

Since this is phonetic, it sounds like a reverse or deliberate mondegreen.

a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning

This comes up in misheard poetry and lyrics unintentionally. It is a type of malapropism.

Specifically in your case, you've got a reverse or deliberate mondegreen, where the phrase is created intentionally to sound similar when read or pronounced as a play on words. The pop children's song Mairzy Doats is a common example, or more recently seen gems in several comments above, as well as in the title of Steven Hall's novel The Raw Shark Texts, and a Glee club called The New Directions.

Another modern example now at its centennial includes "If you see Kay" from Ulysees. Getting close to a holorime.

As TaliesinMerlin points out here, your examples are not redividers, but puns. It may seem absurd to look at a couple papers or new shoes, but that's a pair of docs.


I forget where I just read that it seems this one time a new teacher wrote his name on the chalkboard like this: C L I N T

The kerning was too tight, so the L fused with the I, creating a visual mondegreen. C LI N T

A student said "Your name is C*nt?"

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