SPRINGFIELD, MA, July 7, 2008—If you have ever misheard a song or poem and come up with your own version of the words, you are already familiar with the concept of the "mondegreen," one of over 100 new words included in the annual update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Mondegreen—noun defined as a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung—was first coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954, when she wrote an article for Atlantic magazine confessing to a childhood misinterpretation of the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Moray." When she first heard the lyric "they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green," she felt terribly sorry for the "poor Lady Mondegreen." The tradition has been going strong ever since, from "The ants are my friends," a mangling of "The answer, my friends," by Bob Dylan, to "There’s a bathroom on the right," a bungling of "There’s a bad moon on the rise," by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
To celebrate the release of this year’s new entries, Merriam-Webster OnLine (Merriam-Webster.com) is inviting the general public to submit their own favorite mondegreens—both original and overheard. Submissions are due now through July 25th, with favorites being revealed and featured online the week beginning July 28th.
2008 also features more than a few words from the growing field of culinary arts, from prosecco (a sparkling Italian wine) and soju (a Korean vodka distilled from rice) to edamame (immature green soybeans) and pescatarian (a vegetarian whose diet includes fish). Current societal trends are reflected in this year’s entries, as well. According to John Morse, Merriam-Webster’s president and publisher, webinar is "one more example of the significant ongoing trend for electronic technologies to add words to the language." Morse also comments on another, more ominous term: "Norovirus being added is part of an ongoing effort to cover terms from virology that we think the public may need to know about. Not a happy job, but one that lexicographers have to do."
All new dictionary entries are now available online, and the 2008 print update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition will be available in bookstores across the country September 1st, 2008. Both will feature this fresh crop of new words and phrases that have successfully become part of the mainstream English language through prolonged and widespread usage in a variety of publications.