oronym /OR-uh-nim/. noun. A sequence of words or which sounds like a different sequence of words because of ambiguous word boundaries in speech. “I scream” and “ice cream” are perhaps the most common examples. An oronym is essentially an extended version of the homophone, which usually refers to single words that sound alike. Many puns are oronymic, such as “visualize whirled peas.” Mondegreens, or misheard song lyrics (“excuse me while I kiss this guy”) are musical oronyms and many mistakes in popular sayings result from this kind of confusion such as “it’s a doggy dog world.” Coined by Gyles Brandreth in his 1980 book The Joy of Lex.
- “The seamlessness of speech is also apparent in ‘oronyms,’ strings of sound that can be carved into words in two different ways: The good can decay many ways. ¶ The good candy came anyways.” (Stephen Pinker)
- “…a computer has no way of telling the difference between ‘The stuffy nose may dim liquor’ and ‘The stuff he knows made him lick her.’” (Joshua Foer)
- “She argued passionately against stopping violins in the street.” (Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live)
- See the classic “Four Candles” sketch by The Two Ronnies. And not related to oronyms, you might as well take a few minutes to watch the “Sweet Shop Sketch” too!
- If you are seriously geeky, you might enjoy skimming Jennifer Hughes’ M.S. Computer Science thesis on the “MisheardMe Oronyminator” and “a nice cold hour.”