Pregnant MaryAnd, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. Luke 2:9 (KJV)


A mondegreen is the misinterpretation of a word or phrase in a way that gives it an entirely different meaning. Mondegreens most often arise in the hearing of a poem or song, with the listener not clearly understanding a word or words and substituting a similar sound that makes at least some sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954, recalling that as a girl she had misheard the lyric, “…and laid him on the green” in a Scottish ballad as, “…and Lady Mondegreen.” Perhaps the most memorable Christian mondegreen is the lyric from the old hymn, “Gladly the Cross I Would Bear For Jesus,” which some poor child once heard as “Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear.”


There are many examples of mondegreens from Christmas music and Scripture as well. When I first heard Luke 2:9, I exercised my passion for commas, and the verse spoke of the shepherds being “sore, afraid”—both together made a sorry state of affairs for what had been a normal night tending their sheep. And poor Mary will forever be a “round young virgin,” thanks to my long-ago misinterpretation of the lyrics to “Silent Night.” “Away In The Manger” finds “cattle are blowing the baby away, and “Hark, Harry the Angel Sings.” Speaking of Harry, another line in that hymn was once interpreted as “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners wreck a child.” The standard carol “Angels We Have Heard On High” yields the misunderstood “glory in Aunt Chelsea’s stable!” Repetition can throw some people off, as in the chorus of “The First Noel:” No Whales, No Whales, No Whales, No Whales!” And my personal favorite, from “O Come All Ye Faithful:” “joyful and tri-elephant, oh come let us ignore Him….”


Now all my readers will be cracking up on Christmas Eve and everyone will be wondering what’s so funny. But you’ll have some great conversation starters later over turkey and pumpkin pie. God wants us to enjoy ourselves in this life, and Christmas is a wonderful time to laugh and be merry. After all, there is a song for that too: “Deck the Halls With Boston Charlie.”


Lord of Laughter, fill us with joy this Christmas season! Amen


Meg Blaine Corrigan tells stories of wisdom, strength, fear, joy and risk-taking. Daughter of a raging alcoholic mother, and survivor of sexual assault at gunpoint, Corrigan has shaken a dismal past and flung herself into the arms of Christ, Who sustains her in her daily walk of grace. She shares with her listeners her incredible story of surviving and thriving through many trials during her seven decades walking this fragile earth. She has been described as a Renaissance Woman, integrating her formal training in psychology and counseling, an enlightening experience as a percussionist for a Polynesian show troupe, and most recently as an inspirational author and blogger. Her exposure to many life experiences has enriched her passion for spreading Christ’s word and helping other trauma survivors. She has a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling and thirty-plus years of experience in the field of counseling and social work.  She lives in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, with the love of her life, Patrick, and their formerly disenfranchised rescue dog Ginger.

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