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Mondegreens

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 - 01:39 PM

Mondegreens, or misheard lyrics, happen to us all. It just seems to be a natural byproduct of taking language and setting it to music. No matter how good a singer’s diction is, someone somewhere is going to misunderstand a word or phrase. The first time we aired today’s episode (we’re all traveling so it’s a repeat) we heard from well over a hundred listeners with various, often hilarious, examples of mondegreens. These included the usual famous examples – Jimi Hendrix’s “’scuse me while I kiss this guy” (instead of “’scuse me while I kiss the sky”) and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s potentially helpful “there’s a bathroom on the right” (instead of “there’s a bad moon on the rise”), but everyone seems to have their own personal set of mondegreens.

In the '80s, there was a TV commercial for a Paul McCartney hits collection, and as usual it featured little two- or three-second clips of various songs, most of which anyone listening would’ve known. But there was one clip that showed Paul darting up to the mic to sing, with a rousingly harmonized chorus, the words “my brain thing.” Now, I knew that those couldn’t actually be the words, but with nothing more to go on, it was impossible to figure out what the real song and the real words were. Plus, I didn’t really care to find out. Today, it occurred to me that I could probably find out the real words by googling Paul and his discography and looking at titles that started with the word “my.” Bingo. The song (a tedious number, as it turns out, despite being co-written with Elvis Costello) is called “My Brave Face.”

But it’ll always be “My Brain Thing” to me. [Watch the video below.]

Ever bellow out a favorite song at a party, only to be told after that those aren’t really the words? Tell us your mondegreen story…

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Comments [25]

Marc

Here's a couple I got wrong from Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" -

we're kissing balloons in the jungle
(we're kissing BABOONS in the jungle)

She's - so POP-ular
(Jeux sans frontieres)

Dec. 05 2008 12:37 PM
nannigan

YES, to what Walter heard in "Venus" by the Shocking Blue. I remember hearing that song on the radio during the driving part of driver's ed. and feeling really blushy and embarrassed... I really could only hear "I'm your penis..." (I was a hormone-addled girl listener).

Dec. 02 2008 01:22 AM
Ray

My pet peeve: people who sing "i am the walrus, koo-koo-ka choo",(from Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson")instead of the correct lyric: "i am the walrus, goo-goo ga joob".

Nov. 29 2008 05:22 PM
Elli

"I'm not talking about the linen..."
vs.
"I'm not talking about movin' in"

From England Dan and John Ford Coley (I'd really love to see you tonight")

I knew my interpretation made no sense, but go figure...

One more: which has been a 40 year argument between my younger brother and me. It's from Pinball Wizard:

"I thought I was the BODY table King" (Bally)...

The original Decca lyric sheets that were included with the album read "BODY" !!!

Nov. 28 2008 06:51 PM
Claudia

Beatles "Paperback Writer" was always "Piggy Back rider" to me.

Michael Jackson' s song "Don't Stop 'till You Get Enough" I thought the rift " Keep on with a full stroke, don't stop 'till you get enough"
was "Hang on to the Post Toasties, don't stop 'till you get enough"

and lastly, a riff in a ZZ Top song which sang, "Train kept a rolling all night long" was to my ears "Strange peporoni all night long"

Nov. 28 2008 03:57 PM
walter

Okay, I know the song was called "Venus," or "I'm your Venus," but as a teenaged boy when the original (by Shocking Blue) came out, I couldn't help but hear "I'm your penis." Perhaps it was the way they sang it, or just teenage hormones in high gear... but I know I'm not the only one that went here.

Nov. 27 2008 10:33 AM
al

Thought - you and me endlessly fronm groovin was you and me and leslie

Nov. 26 2008 11:50 PM
Maryann

"All of us are only..." aka "Oliver's Army" by Elvis Costello. I can't live that one down!

Nov. 26 2008 08:39 PM
Jeska

haha...I had to reply to Vinny's post. I, too, thought it went "revved up like a douche," but mine continued, "into the middle of the night". I thought midnight douching was a strange adult thing. I first heard this song when I was 13 and continued to think these were the lyrics for 12 years until I was corrected last summer.

Nov. 26 2008 04:15 PM
miriam

Walter, I made the same mistake about "I Like It Like That"! It still tickles me.

Nov. 26 2008 04:10 PM
Vinny

When Manfred Mann covered Springstein Blinded by the light, I was unaware of Springstein's version. The first line is;
Blinded by the light,
revved up like a deuce,
another runner in the night
In the MM version I always thought it was "revved up douche into the roner in the night". Don't ask me what I thought roner was. My wife tells me that they even bleeped douche out when playing on the radio.

Nov. 26 2008 03:45 PM
Paddy

You can find a website dedicated to mondegreens here (iibc, it has been around for at least 6-7 years)

http://www.kissthisguy.com/

Nov. 26 2008 03:36 PM
Walter

From the early 60s, "I Like It Like That," a friend made the opening lyrics, "C'mon let me show you where I sat," instead of "C'mon, let me show you where it's at."

Like anyone cared where he (or anyone for that matter) sat.

Nov. 26 2008 03:33 PM
Dave

The Beatles' Paperback Writer I heard as: "Take the back right turn"....a song about a shortcut?

Nov. 26 2008 03:27 PM
Matthew O'Connor

CCR's "There's a Bad Moon On the Rise" I always heard as "There's a bathroom on the right".

Nov. 26 2008 03:23 PM
Jason Schneiderman

Hey guys-- any chance you guys could sort out the lyrics to "Double Dutch Bus" by Sugar Hill Gang?

Nov. 26 2008 03:21 PM
Paul Mauceri (

For years, I thought the line in the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love" - "And you come to me on a summer breeze," was "And you come to me on a submarine."

Nov. 26 2008 03:19 PM
miriam

I heard the line from Ernie K-Doe's "Mother-in-Law":

She thinks her advice is a contribution

as

She thinks her advice is the Constitution

I prefer my version because everyone who gives advice thinks it's a contribution. But it's another thing to think your advice is based on some not-to-be-questioned principle, or your own not-to-be-questioned self.

But I disagree that mondegreens should never be corrected. I was happy to find out that "The Weight" goes "Take a load of Fanny," not "Take a load off Manny," as I heard it.

Nov. 26 2008 03:19 PM
Jeska

Falco's "Rock me Amadeus"-Hot potatoes, hot potatoes....oh oh oooh..oh oh oh....HOT POTATOES.

When I first heard this song I knew the correct lyrics, but then a friend shared her mondegreen and now I can't sing anything but her version. Thanks Amber D.

Nov. 26 2008 03:18 PM
Anne Gilbert

Growing up, my younger sister Liza, otherwise known in our family as Little Miss Malaprop, thought that "Life in the Fast Lane" was "Life in the Bath Drain."

Nov. 26 2008 03:15 PM
Jane on Long Island

My girlfriend for years thought in the song
"Goin' to the Chapel" that the chorus Goin' to the Chapel and I'm gonna get married was
Goin' to the Jack-o-lantern, gonna get married, which makes no sense but she just thought that was the lyric!!!

In the song Build Me Up Buttercup
I thought "Baby I'll be home, waiting by the phone" was Baby, I'll be home, oh baby xylophone"

Nov. 26 2008 03:15 PM
Paul

As a child I thought the Christmas song went ...later on we'll perspire, as we sit by the fire. At that point I didn't know what the word conspire meant. To this day I sing perspire.

Nov. 26 2008 03:15 PM
Natalie

perhaps it's an indication of my own naivete but i'm okay with that-- until embarrassingly recently, i thought eric clapton was singing to a woman named cookie (cookaaay), when, in fact, he was singing an ode to cocaine. sigh.

Nov. 26 2008 03:13 PM
vivian

I thought Toto Africa's lyrics ... were "there is nothing that a hundred men on mars could ever do"

Nov. 26 2008 03:12 PM
Mattea

Hail Mary, full of grapes... the "blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus" made that seem to be true. Another one "Amazing Grapes, How sweet and sour..."

Nov. 26 2008 03:11 PM

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