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Mondegreens!


SDG
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Can it really be that we've never had a discussion about mondegreens?

For those who don't know, mondegreens are misheard song lyrics or poetry, especially commonly and humorously misheard ones. Classic examples include

  • "There's a bathroom on the right" ("There's a bad moon on the rise," Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  • "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" ("Excuse me while I kiss the sky," Kiss the Sky, Jimi Hendrix)
  • "The girl with colitis goes by" ("The girl with kaleidoscope eyes," Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, The Beatles)
  • (A seasonal favorite!) "Now bring us some friggin' pudding!" ("Now bring us some figgy pudding," We Wish You a Merry Christmas)
A popular mondegreen website: The Archive of Misheard Lyrics (KissThisGuy.com)

The term "mondegreen" is itself a mondegreen, taken from the 17th century ballad "The Bonnie Earl O' Murray," in which (Wikipedia reports) American writer Sylvia Wright as a child misheard the line "They hae slain the Earl Amurray / And laid him on the green" as "They hae slain the Earl Amurray / And Lady Mondegreen."

Okay, enough background. Feel free to share your favorite classic mondegreens here -- but what I hope you'll do is share your personal mondegreens, song lyrics you yourself have misheard. The funnier the better.

Two examples from my own experience. ::blushing::

The first is the more recent, and what prompted me to start this thread. Last weekend at the bookstore they were playing "Run-Around" by Blues Traveler, a song I've heard many times before. Like many people (as I've since learned), I never knew exactly how the chorus began -- though I never thought much about it before.

However, that night, I dreamed about the song -- and in my dream thought I had figured out the line in question. Yes, it was a mondedream.

When I woke up, I realized that while my guess had to be wrong, it was actually phonetically persuasive and narratively cogent -- more so than other mondegreens on the same line I've since found online.

The real line, I have since found out, is:

"But you / Why you wanna give me the runaround?"

However, "But-a ya-a-ou..." is polysyllablized (I'm sure there's a musicological term for this) in such a way that many people apparently think it is something more complicated. I didn't know this at the time, but one common mondegreen for this line is "Buddy L." Makes no sense, but that's what people think he's saying.

I like my version better:

"Bloody hell, why you wanna give me the runaround?"

Sounds a lot like "Buddy L," but makes more sense -- and I came up with it in my sleep. What's more, I keep singing it that way in my head now -- even though I now know the real line.

Now, for my lifetime classic mondegreen. Fair warning: This anecdote will ruin several minutes of Handel's Messiah for you. There. You can't say I didn't tell you.

The Messiah got a lot of play in our house when I was a kid. My mother sang in it at a local church, and she played it especially around Christmastime.

My childhood mondegreen concerns the opening of the segment that begins:

"All we like sheep ... all we like sheep / Have gone astray..."

In the Baroque style, those first four words "All we like sheep" are echoed by four antiphonal beats from the violin section, "All we like sheep [bum bum bum bum]."

As a child, I not only misheard the words "All we like sheep," I glossed an antiphonal response onto the four following beats. So during "All we like sheep [bum bum bum bum]," what I heard in my head as a kid was:

People hate me for telling them that, because it ruins the segment. (Sorry people!)

So those are my mondegreens. Your turn!

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Interestingly, the "hidden text" is not hidden in RSS feeds. (Or at least not in Google Reader.)

Anyway, a favorite "mondegreen" among Daniel Amos / Swirling Eddies fans is the one from 'God Went Bowling'. Terry Scott Taylor sings "And he woos us like a lover," but the way he sings it, many people have heard "And who's the sly gay lover?"

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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When I was in high school and really discovering Queen's music for the first time, I was sure that a line in Bohemian Rhapsody was "Beelzebub rides a devil motorcycle" when it was actually "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for (me)". It wasn't until my brother saw the sheet music in a record store and read it that I knew the truth.

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My sister recently asked me, in all seriousness, if I liked the Neil Young "Forgetting" song. I wasn't sure which song that was, so I asked her to clarify.

"You know," she said. And then sang "Forgetting Ohio."

Ah, yes. The anthem to the dead Kent State students. I had forgotten that one. The actual lyric is "Four dead in Ohio."

I used to have a world of trouble deciphering the lyrics to early R.E.M. songs. Michael Stipe is the quintessential mumble mouth, and so I used to hear lines from "Sitting Still" as "Up to par, and Katie bars the kitchen sink, but not me in." It made no sense, but neither did the lyrics I could clearly understand. I later came to find out that the actual lyrics were "Up to buy, and Katie buys a kitchen size, but not Mae Ann." So which one made more sense?

In the late '80s the production on the R.E.M. albums seemed to improve, and Michael Stipe seemed to undergo elocution lessions, at which point his lyrics became much more decipherable, but no more coherent.

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In the late '80s the production on the R.E.M. albums seemed to improve, and Michael Stipe seemed to undergo elocution lessions, at which point his lyrics became much more decipherable, but no more coherent.

Would we enjoy R.E.M. if the songs made sense?

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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I went thru a phase that believed that secular music was atheistic and immoral at its base level, and to be avoided. One of the examples I used was upon hearing the classic song "There ain't no good god; there ain't no bad god; there's just you and me, and we just disagree."

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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My sister recently asked me, in all seriousness, if I liked the Neil Young "Forgetting" song.

Heh. My sister also mondegreened a number of song titles (as a kid; I have no idea if she has continued to do so).

Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light," as performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, is famous for mondegreened versions of the second line of the chorus -- "revved up like a deuce" -- widely heard as something like "wrapped up like a douche." However, my sister may be the only person to hear the first line of the chorus, and the title of the song, as "By Day, By the Night." She was sure of this for years, and only learned the truth later.

Also, at a certain age she was sure that the Blondie song "Call Me" was actually self-titled after the band: "Blondie!" What she thought this meant, I have no idea.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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My favorite was my best friend, who was convinced that the chorus in Beck's "Loser" started "Smo-oh-oh-kin the dope." When I told him it was "Soy un perdador" he laughed and mockingly said "Sure, whatever that means."

The same friend sing the national anthem in school as "Oh, sake and you see." I didn't even realize it until I saw him write the lyrics of the song on his Trapper Keeper one day.

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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In the late '80s the production on the R.E.M. albums seemed to improve, and Michael Stipe seemed to undergo elocution lessions, at which point his lyrics became much more decipherable, but no more coherent.

Yeah, but since it seems like every R.E.M. album is worse than the one that preceded it, I'd give anything for another mumbled-through Murmur or Reckoning.

The song "Hold Me Now" by The Thompson Twins has this backup vocal chorus-- it goes:

Oh-oh Hold Me Now (In Your Lovin' Arms)

Oh-oh Warm My Heart (My Cold and Tired Heart)

I can't remember whether I thought it could actually be the for-real lyric or not, but I used to sing the second backup chorus as "My Cold, Italian Heart."

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I was bred on classic rock growing up and one of my dad's favorite acts is Eric Clapton. And one of my worst lyrical blunders occurred with Derek and the Dominos' "Layla." For some reason I thought the chorus was "Babe-uh, got me on my knees..." when in reality it is "Layla, got me on my knees..." I guess I thought it was just a funny pronunciation of "baby." This mistake continued until one day when I was about ten and I sang it at the top of my lungs in the car with my dad and was met with much hearty laughter...I'm not sure what I thought the title of the song was...

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As a kid I remembering singing "Secret Asian Man" instead of "Secret Agent Man."

Also, on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" I heard "no dark sarcasm in the classroom" as "No dukes of hazzard in the classroom."

Why I thought either of these made sense, I have no idea.

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Come to think of it, I remember there was some confusion as to why Stevie Wonder would sing bubbly about

an "Apartheid Lover"...

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Come to think of it, I remember there was some confusion as to why Stevie Wonder would sing bubbly about

an "Apartheid Lover"...

Ha! That reminds me that around eighth or ninth grade a friend and I made the exact opposite mistake with Rez Band's "Afrikaans" from Rainbow's End:

"We need a part time to keep the animal in his cell"

I thought it meant "a part-time job." I didn't know what it meant, but I had never even heard of "apartheid." And the way I learned the truth was one of those embarrassing cases where my friend and I were singing at the top of our lungs on a long bus trip from some Christian-y event like a weekend youth retreat or Creation or something. One of the grown-ups on the bus knew the song and corrected us.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I learned the term "mondegreen" in late 2007. One thing led to another, and now I'm the administrator of a flaky effort called MANDY GREEN Project, largely aimed at helping establish "mondegreen" as a household word. It involves a quirky novel written by MANDY GREEN (yes, "mondegreen" misheard as "Mandy Green") whose story centers on a mondegreen ("Gesundheit Whistle" misheard as "Gazoon High Twizzle"). Please check it out, especially if your name happens to be MANDY GREEN.

My son thinks the whole effort is hopeless, adding that he hates to be the bear of bad news. :)

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I'm almost certainly not the first person to, when learning the Lord's Prayer auditorily, believed it to be: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, how old be Thy name."

Anyway, a favorite "mondegreen" among Daniel Amos / Swirling Eddies fans is the one from 'God Went Bowling'. Terry Scott Taylor sings "And he woos us like a lover," but the way he sings it, many people have heard "And who's the sly gay lover?"

I've never had a problem with that, but in "Low Crawls & High Times," I still hear "There's good news at eleven / There's a diety in Heaven" (rather than "instant tea and instant Heaven").

In Sixpence's "Bleeding," it really, really sounds like Leigh is singing "The fire fades so the deepest sh** / Slowly trickles down the wall." "Shade" would be the correct sh- word, apparently.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Speaking of sh- words, there is a Daniel Amos song called 'Who's Who Here' where the lyrics in the liner notes say "chit chat" and many of us who have listened to the song again and again swear that we hear Terry Scott Taylor singing "shit chat".

Re: anthems, there were a number of people, when I was a kid, who sang a line in 'O Canada' as "With glory hearts, we see thee rise...". It's supposed to be "glowing hearts".

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In Sixpence's "Bleeding," it really, really sounds like Leigh is singing "The fire fades so the deepest sh** / Slowly trickles down the wall." "Shade" would be the correct sh- word, apparently.

Oh, is THAT what she's saying? I've persistently heard it the first way.

I know someone who regularly hears "Hey Roderigo" at the beginning of "Brown Eyed Girl." Every time.

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  • 1 month later...

I consistently would hear this song as "I've got my mom sit on you!" It doesn't make any sense, but that's no obstacle...

That's just how eye roll.

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For years, I heard the last line of the first verse of bodies as....

She was an Animal, She was the body of christ.

"She was a girl from Birmingham

She just had an abortion

She was a case of insanity

Her name was Pauline she lived in a tree

She was a no one who killed her baby

She sent her letters from the country

She was an animal she was a bloody disgrace"

It remains one of the most shocking songs I have ever heard. It still has a terror and rage that I admire.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Plato

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  • 1 month later...

A local radio station has been giving the Killers "Human" a lot of airplay. I thought they might of been trying to give Coldplay a run for their money in terms of alluding to Christian themes. I kept hearing one of the verses say:

Pay my respects to grace and virtue

Send my condolences to good

Hear my regards to Saul in Romans

They always did the best they could

as a nod to post-Christian critique of biblical ethics.

I was disappointed to learn that it was just more nonsensical Killer's tripe:

Pay my respects to grace and virtue

Send my condolences to good

Hear my regards to soul and romance

They always did the best they could

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