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Musings: What Is Your Mondegreen?

12/04/2013

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Ludwig van Beethoven

What's your mondegreen?

What’s your mondegreen? A mixed bag of musical instruments

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It most commonly is applied to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song Wikipedia

What is your mondegreen? Have you ever misinterpreted the lyrics of a favorite song? Do you remember anyone else who has? Recently, I was listening to an NPR (National Public Radio) show on music and the topic was about Mondegreens. If you’ve never heard the term before, it is used to describe what happens when we listen to a song and hear some of the lyrics differently from what the artist is singing/saying. For instance, instead of “Pretty little things” we might hear “Ditsy little finks.” It happens to a lot of us and often with songs we enjoy singing out loud. As I listened to the show, which was quite funny, it took me back to songs I enjoyed in my teen days and how I butchered some of the lyrics because what I heard was different from what the artist was singing.

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” Bono


“Blinded by the Light,” cover of a Bruce Springsteen song by the Manfred Mann’s Earth Band  The line “revved up like a deuce” becomes “wrapped up like a douche”


“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac  The line “Well, who am I to keep you down?” becomes “Well, whoever will kick you down?” “Thunder only happens when it’s raining” becomes “Thunder only helps us when we’re praying.”   “Have you any dreams you’d like to sell” becomes “Holds you and it dreams you like yourself.”


“Diamond in the Back” by Curtis Mayfield. The line “Gangster whitewalls TV antenna in the back” becomes “Against the white world, To be answered, sit in the back.”

Do you have any examples of a Mondegreen to share? Above are some examples of popular songs we’ve butchered (some are mine and some from Wiki).  I remember when Fleetwood Mac’s huge hit came out. I fell in love with the album and would listen to the song “Dreams” on the radio or on TV and sing along loudly. In classic mondegreen fashion,”Well, who am I to keep you down?” became “Well, whoever will kick you down?” and it stuck in my head like an earworm. On the NPR show, they invited a Mondegreen expert and he pointed out that when we mishear the words of a song, we hold on to the incorrect lyrics because we truly believe we have the correct information and everyone else is goofing off. And, like an earworm, which is a song that won’t leave your brain, a mondegreen lingers too. Checkout the poll below and add your vote. Thank you! More below

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Berthold Auerbach

What's your mondegreen? A mixed bag of musical instruments

What’s your mondegreen? A mixed bag of string sounds

Mondegreen – Have You Ever Misinterpreted the Lyrics of a Song?


“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival  The line”There’s a bad moon on the rise” becomes There’s a bathroom on the right


“Purple Haze”, by The Jimi Hendrix Experience  The line ” ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” becomes ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy

To jug our memories and get us thinking about other similar mondegreen we might have grown up hearing, I’ve added a few more examples of a Mondegreen and a poll for your entertainment. Please pick the answer that best explains your personal experience of a Mondegreen. Hope you enjoyed the music too. Thank you!

*Please bear with me as I continue to catch up on reading and commenting on your blogs. I’ll catch up soon too. Thank you all for your patience!

Happy April! This post was inspired by a prompt from the Daily Prompt: The Transporter  Tell us about a sensation — a taste, a smell, a piece of music — that transports you back  to  childhood,  And from Problogger.net’s Darren Rowse: Group Writing Project: Write a ‘Discussion’ Post
Comments must be received by midnight on Friday 12th April
start a debate
run a poll
give readers a chance to write a tip
take a reader question and post it for the community to answer

Positive Motivation Tip: A mondegreen can make us sound like idiots but its’ all in good jest. Smile.

Mirthful Tip: “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” Stephen Wright

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: Musical instruments String instruments, via Wikipedia, Flickr or from my personal collection.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

83 Comments leave one →
  1. 13/04/2013 12:16 am

    Blinded by the Light gets me every time! Although now the Bad Moon Rising one will be in my head too! :)

    • 13/04/2013 12:25 am

      Oh, I like that line… and now I’ll remember yours in my head. :lol: TY!

  2. 13/04/2013 12:16 am

    Hey, I’m first! Welcome back! I’ve missed you :)

    Kenny Rogers; Lucille – ‘Four hundred children and a crop in the field;. No wonder she left him :D

  3. jonrhodesuk permalink
    13/04/2013 12:58 am

    I was about to share with the the Jimmy Hendrix one “S’cuse me whilst I kiss the sky” then you dropped it in last minute! I remember a friend years ago thought the lyric on Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean “The kind is not my son” was “the chair is not my size”! I never thought that myself, but when I hear it now, I can see why he thought that. I now can’t shake these alternative lyrics out!

    • 13/04/2013 1:07 am

      That is hysterical! I had a good laugh over the chair so TY for the humor… They are hard to shake. :lol:

  4. 13/04/2013 1:01 am

    Brilliant, I never knew there was a term for my idiocy but it makes me feel a whole lot better! I have done this many times but can’t for the life of me think of one for now.
    It’s really lovely to have you back sweetie :-)

    • 13/04/2013 2:49 am

      You are so kind… Thank you Gilly and i’m glad too! :-)

  5. 13/04/2013 1:15 am

    My husband has so many, I can’t think of them. I have one which I wrote for a post on Gabrielle Bryden’s blog some time ago – as my muse has gone missing and I’m short on inspiration, I’ll dig it out and post it on my blog :-) Tilly’s still makes me laugh.

  6. 13/04/2013 3:22 am

    I’d never heard of ‘Mondegreen’ but I chuckled at some of the changes to the lyrics I read. Lovely stuff

  7. 13/04/2013 4:38 am

    The vids won’t play on my computer but I LOVE this word!

    • 24/04/2013 2:54 pm

      Sorry! It happens with all the different zones in the world… :-)

  8. 13/04/2013 7:41 am

    i’ve never heard the word “Mondegreen” before, but it’s a great one! I chuckled all the way through reading your post and I’ve kind of drawn a blank on any specific example, but I not only have misinterpreted many, many through the years, I’m sure I still do! So funny!

    • 24/04/2013 2:55 pm

      TY and I’ve mixed lyrics up too… Sometimes I prefer my incorrect lines. :lol:

  9. 13/04/2013 9:16 am

    Great topic. I have never (child of the 60s) understood words to rock and roll songs – except some Beatles.
    My favorite mondegreen is hearing “Clean my sheets” from the roaring chorus in Corelli’s Allegro in Concerto for Christmas night. Couldn’t find the lyrics today, but it’s probably “tend my sheep.”

    • 24/04/2013 2:55 pm

      Oh that is funny! I like your line better actually. :-)

  10. 13/04/2013 10:18 am

    When Benny and the Jets came out my son was 3. We were driving along one day and it came on the radio. I started cracking up and said to my husband, “Listen to what he’s singing!” We will never stop laughing over it. He was singing, “ppppanties on my head”.
    He’s 42 now and has never lived it down. ;)
    b

    • 24/04/2013 2:56 pm

      Adorable!!! I can even hear him singing it in my head… too funny! :-)

  11. Goz permalink
    13/04/2013 11:35 am

    Nice post..and I have learnt something new. :-) The only mondegreen I can think of is a friend of mine who always sings “who won the war? Girls” to Beyonce’s “who runs the World?”.. Or is there such a refrain somewhere in the song??

    • 24/04/2013 2:57 pm

      Oh funny! Right and you know after all the teasing from Wendy Williams, I can understand hearing something else when Bey sings. She’s alright. :-)

  12. 13/04/2013 1:40 pm

    Oh no! I really thought ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” was ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” LOL :D

  13. 13/04/2013 1:48 pm

    I missed you where have you been!

    • 24/04/2013 3:00 pm

      TY for your concerns… and it touched my heart that you asked. Just a lot of stuff going on offline that has demanded my time. I hope to catch up with you and all soon. TY! :-)

  14. 13/04/2013 3:18 pm

    never had heard of the word…what was it??? …”monstergrin”

  15. 13/04/2013 4:37 pm

    I’m always mishearing Steely Dan songs, and old REM, especially from their first album such as the song ”Radio Free Europe’.

    Probing that there’s a web site for everything, check out
    Kissthisguy.com

    • 24/04/2013 3:02 pm

      TY Peter! I will take a look soon. Now I’m curious. :-)

  16. 13/04/2013 5:46 pm

    Glad we are all educated, Sorry Been catching up on college, struggling at work and praying for Gods favor. Love ya Eliz Jackie :)

    • 24/04/2013 3:03 pm

      Jackie, no need to apologize. I’ve been out of the loop for a few months. Life’s demands call and we have to answer. TY! :-)

  17. 13/04/2013 6:09 pm

    “There’s a bathroom on the right”. Oh yeah! That was one of mine! I still can’t sing the proper lyrics. (Nrt can I sing – period!) :-)

    • 24/04/2013 3:03 pm

      TY and it has stuck in my head too… I do like the bathroom line too. :-)

  18. 13/04/2013 8:38 pm

    Hi Eliz,
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I hadn’t heard that term before. So I’m glad I learned something new today. It was fun casting my vote. :-)

  19. 13/04/2013 9:02 pm

    thanks for the chuckles, I am glad I am not alone and that there is an actual word for this silliness. Somebody that I used to know would sing the old old song Zippidy do da and say “Plenty of sunshine, plenty of rain” instead of “Plenty of sunshine, coming my way” no matter how many times I corrected him, he could not change.

    • 24/04/2013 3:05 pm

      TY for the pingback and comment.I’m glad you enjoyed it. Will visit soon. :-)

  20. 14/04/2013 6:37 am

    Great post, Eliz! :)

  21. 14/04/2013 7:25 am

    What a great concept! Guilty as charged! I loved knowing. The lyrics of songs and I used to go out of my way to find the real lyrics. Nowadays this is much easier with many available online. Do you know il like using lyrics in some correspondences as white noise?

    I will look up the podcast on NPR.

    • 24/04/2013 3:06 pm

      Oh TY dear one! Let me know what you find and do share… :-)

  22. 14/04/2013 3:07 pm

    oh, seriously? all this time i thought the Blinded by the Light was ” “wrapped up like a douche!” (thanks for the new vocab word. :) )

    • 24/04/2013 3:06 pm

      You are a riot, but that douche bag sounds infinitely better doesn’t it? :-)

      • 25/04/2013 7:26 am

        yep, even though i cringe when i hear the song on the oldie station. guess you could say it is not on my fave playlist. ;)

      • 24/05/2013 12:36 am

        :lol:

      • 25/05/2013 12:10 am

        i love that moving smile face! ☺

      • 25/05/2013 12:10 am

        i love that moving smile face! ☺

    • 17/06/2013 11:53 am

      TY it is easy to make: Use/open with a colon : and then write lol and then close it with another : :lol:
      TY!

      • 19/06/2013 7:23 am

        oh, thanks! i’m going to try it right now. :lol:
        have a great day!

    • 29/06/2013 6:29 pm

      Good job, you did it. :lol:

  23. 14/04/2013 7:51 pm

    You have been missed. Love this post. I have learned something new and I am at a loss at remembering one. Since I’m hard of hearing and need to do something about it, you might say that many conversations come across as mondegreens.

    • 24/04/2013 3:07 pm

      TY Lynne AND I have missed everyone too. Hope to get back on track soon.
      Blessings! :-)

  24. 15/04/2013 12:07 pm

    What a lovely fun post, Elizabeth. Sure I’ve misinterpreted lyrics many times but can’t think of one. I do know someone who thought the second line of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” was “Weigh a pie.” :)

  25. 16/04/2013 7:01 pm

    Missed you dear friend :-)

  26. 20/04/2013 4:51 am

    I have never heard the word mondegreen before either, but I have certainly practised what lies in the term. For me it was particularly amusing that you mentioned “Blinded by the Light,” song by Chris Thompson in the Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. For many years I used to sing along exactly with the words “wrapped up like a douche”.

    • 24/04/2013 3:09 pm

      TY! Now that is so interesting that so many people heard those lines… WoW. :-)

  27. 21/04/2013 9:55 am

    I have never heard that word–mondegren. I was stopped by the photo of the musical instruments. My daughter has a gorgeous violin–expensive–and I can’t look at violins discarded/unprotected without thinking of the care she uses constantly with her instrument!

  28. ropcorn permalink
    21/04/2013 10:38 am

    Music sure is an amazing thing, brings out (and is the source of) so many memories. :) Thanks for sharing this, Eliz.

    • 24/04/2013 3:10 pm

      TY Ropcorn… yes, lots of memories pull us into music.:-)

  29. 22/04/2013 1:42 pm

    You may or may not respond, but I wanted my readers to know about you :)

    http://collinesblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/the-epically-awesome-award-of-epic-awesomeness/

    • 24/04/2013 3:11 pm

      TY so much for thinking of me Colline! I am deeply appreciative of your kindness. :-)

  30. 25/04/2013 7:43 am

    my mondegreen – In Guy Clark’s song The Cape, for a long time I thought the line in the chorus was “Always trust your cake.” :)

    • 23/05/2013 11:14 pm

      Oh that is so, so funny! It’s amazing how we hear one thing and the musician is saying something else. :lol: TY!

  31. 06/05/2013 10:37 am

    I do it all the time with Bollywood songs :-D Had no idea there was a phrase to describe it! Getting a solid education today thanks to you Eliz :-)

    • 23/05/2013 11:16 pm

      TY Madhu! I learn from you too and now I’m thinking about the Bollywood movies and songs I grew up watching… I totally butchered the songs I heard. Like you, I was pleased to find out there was an official term for this habit. :lol:

  32. InsideJourneys (@InsideJourneys) permalink
    12/05/2013 6:11 pm

    Mondegreen?! That’s interesting. There’s no way to even guess at the meaning of the word, hence it’s perfect for the situation it describes.
    I have one from when I was about 10. It was the jingle for Dial soap and I misinterpreted a part of it. One of my older cousins heard me singing and told me that wasn’t what the song said. I insisted I was right, she insisted she was wrong and an argument started. She told me I should listen when the jingle came on again. I did. I hated being wrong. I was so mad, I didn’t speak to her for a while.
    It probably was the first time I got that mad and felt so justified in my anger. That I let something so silly get between us stayed with me.

    • 23/05/2013 11:19 pm

      Wow! I love your story and I bet others had the same reaction too. I do remember arguing with siblings over words in songs. Those were the days of song books and we’d buy a new one at the end of the month to check :lol: TY!

  33. 21/05/2013 8:10 am

    “Ditsy little finks” = quite often, dear Eliz, because my language is German and I have to translate it all: using a dictionary. But I can’t find it in the dictionary, because I did not hear the right words = mondegreens in my ears, mondegreens in my mind…

    • 23/05/2013 11:25 pm

      Hi Frizz! Glad to see you here… What word are you looking for? Ditsy little fink? It’s a term for a scatter-brained; silly, spacey, little informer/rat. :lol: Mondegreen is a world you know as a musician. :-)

  34. 26/07/2013 11:14 pm

    hi Eliz,
    thank you for this music related article!
    (and thanks for retweeting me at twitter)
    NEVER GOING BACK AGAIN:
    Eliz, never back to London or Lagos again?
    your bad guitar player frizz …

  35. 19/10/2013 9:19 am

    you amused with your:
    The line”There’s a bad moon on the rise”
    becomes There’s a bathroom on the right

Trackbacks

  1. Music Lifts Me Heavenward | Lily Mugford
  2. When life gives you lemons… | beeblu blog
  3. Earworms And Mondegreens | Not the Family Business!

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