Monday, August 27, 2018

Misheard Lyrics: Mondegreens!

JENN McKINLAY: I'm married to a musician, which is no surprise because I love music. I love listening, singing, and feeling that visceral punch to the chest from a really great song. Here's the thing, I never get the lyrics right and the poor beleaguered Hub has to listen to me sing, "Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing' through the chasm in my mind..." Which, frankly, I think makes more sense then "blowing through the jasmine in my mind" but whatever. He's ever patient with me.

Recently, I learned that misheard song lyrics, which are unintentional and not at all like Weird Al Yankovic's parody of songs, actually have their own terminology. They are called mondegreens. Somehow this makes me feel that singing the wrong words is a less egregious offense, you know, because it has a name so it's legit.

Little known fact: My nickname when I lived next-door to the AZ state liquor commissioner, Howard Adams, was "Ave Maria". Why? Well, he was a good Irish Catholic boy and I was a sinner, but we spent many a happy hour together where I would imbibe too much and then sing Ave Maria in Latin, which he loved. Those words I never got wrong, most likely do to the fear of eternal damnation. Plus, it was Latin!

So, how about you Reds? Do you get the songs right or wrong? And if you do get them wrong, what's your most dazzling mondegreen? Here's another personal fave, because...donuts!


Crystal Gayle's donut problem.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You know why they’re called mondegreens, right? It’s from something like an Irish folk song, about someone who was was slain by somebody-somebody, and they "laid him on the green."  Someone thought it was "and Lady Mondegreen."

Anyway, don’t get me started on song lyrics.  “in the night with the light from a bulb?” “Excuse me while I kiss this guy?”
And what are those impossible lyrics from Rocket Man?  Burning up his face down here alone?  (it's really "Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone" which make no sense at  all.)

JENN: I had no idea where "mondegreen" came from, Hank. Oh, I love that back story. And "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" is a classic! Jimi Hendrix, FTW. 


Jimi!
RHYS BOWEN: One of the most used Mondegreens is what is called in the US Ring Around the Rosie.  In England where it originated, it is Ring a ring of roses. A pocket full of posies. Atishoo. Atishoo. We all fall down. It is a creepy song about the great plague of 1665. The ring of roses is the rash around the body that signifies you have the plague. You carry flowers and herbs in an attempt to ward it off. Atishoo is the sneeze and we all fall down. You die anyway.
But my favorite mondegreen came when I was singing with the local opera chorus. A flamboyant and fun gay guy who sang with me insisted that the song "She's a must to avoid" was really "She's a muscular boy."

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm always singing something and usually with words made up to fit the person or pet in front of me. For example, Tonka's favorite song was "T-t-t-Tonka, beautiful Tonka, you're the only d-d-d-dog that I adore..." But I'm desperately searching for mondegreens and all I can come up with is: "One toe over the line sweet Jesus, one toe over the line..."

HANK: Lucy! I love that!

HALLIE EPHRON: JASMINE of my mind? I always thought it was canyons of my mind. Go figure. And of course I pledged allegiance to the republic for Richard Stans. My granddaughter mangle the lyrics of every song she sings. And sings. Except supercalifragilisticexpialidocious she nails.

DEBS: Hallie, I though it was "canyons" too! "Jasmine?" You have to wonder what they were smoking...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hank, I thought it was "burning up his face up here alone" too. I can't think of any mondegreens that you all haven't already mentioned, but, like Lucy, I'm constantly singing songs with new lyrics to my pets, kids, etc. "Oh, Louie, you're so fine, you're a fun dog all the time hey Louie" (clap clap, clap clap) "Hey Louie," (clap clap, clap clap) To the tune of "Hey Mickey," of course. 

I also do it with pop songs on the radio, which drives Youngest absolutely bonkers. There's one out now where the Camila Cabello sings, "Half of my heart is in Havana, na, na na. He took me back to east Atlanta, na, na, na..." and I will go on, "I like to eat a nice banana, na, na, na. While I am wearing my pajama, na, na, na." I usually can't get further than a couple of bars before I start getting threats from my daughter.

JENN: So, you clearly have a strong song parody game, Julia. Love it!


Another Elton John mondegreen classic!

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  I had no idea that misheard song lyrics were called mondegreens! And I love Hank's explanation. But here's the thing. I have a terrible time remembering song lyrics at all, unless I'm prompted by someone singing them. It's a weird brain gap, like not getting algebra. But if Rick starts singing something, for instance, I can immediately fill in the lyrics (and usually correctly) even when he can't remember them. And I can sing along with songs on the radio just fine. Brains are very quirky.

INGRID THOFT: Okay, the most memorable mondegreen isn’t really family friendly, but I’ll let you fill in the blanks.  Famously, in my family, one of my sisters was sure that the lyric from The Motels’ song “Only the Lonely” was “only the lonely g*t l$#d.”  In fact, the lyric is “only the lonely can play.”  Not necessarily that different in meaning, but a bit different when it comes to singing along in the car!  The lyric that I always think should be a mondegreen but isn’t?  “You’re a vegetable” sung in the bridge of Michael Jackson’s fantastic “Wanna Be Startin Something.”  That one always leaves me scratching my head!

JENN: When Hub was reviewing a John Fogerty show, Fogerty embraced the mondegreen and sang "There's a bathroom on the right" as opposed to "bad moon on the rise" and pointed to the right. Hub said it was pretty hilarious! 



How about you, Readers? What's your most common mondegreen? And for all the earworms I've now planted in your head, you're welcome!


109 comments:

  1. I love music but I don’t sing [for which the entire world is grateful] but I enjoy hearing about the mondegreens. My favorite? From Madonna’s MATERIAL GIRL: “We are living in a Cheerio world, and I am a Cheerio girl” . . . .

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    1. I love that! And will think of it that way from now on!

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    2. LOL!!! That’s a new one to me.

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  2. I was for years convinced the lyrics to the Young Rascals "Groovin" were, "That would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie." I always wondered who Leslie was and what she had to do with anything, since she clearly wasn't in the rest of the song.

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    1. It's NOT "You and me and Leslie?" What are the real words, then?

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    2. Leslie? Now I have to listen to that song.

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  3. Barb, I also misheard the lyrics in "Groovin" as "you and me and Leslie". I don't think there were (m)any songs written about threesomes in the mid-sixties. It's actually "you and me endlessly".

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  4. I LOVE this topic, and I would have shared the origin of the term if Hank hadn't (we with dusty PhDs in linguistics know all those terms; eggcorns are fun to talk about, too). My sister and I always sang "There's a bathroom on the right." Other good ones are the Beatles song, "The girl with colitis goes by," the line in Silent Night: "Round John Virgin, mother, and child," and this one: "I led the pigeons to the flag of the United States of America." I thought it was "the canyons of my mind", too! In Sweet Caroline (which came out in 1969) the second line I thought was something like, "Weeden sits on my shoulder" - still don't know what the correct version is.

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    1. Ha - just looked it up: "And when I hurt
      Hurting runs off my shoulders
      How can I hurt when I'm holding you"
      Oh well - I had the shoulder part mostly right!

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    2. LOL - and now I have to go look up eggcorns - what?!

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    3. Here's the eggcorn database, Jenn:
      https://eggcorns.lascribe.net/
      Here's a definition from linguist Mark Lieberman: "A relatively rare and somewhat archaic word that is pronounced in just the same way as another word that is much more common in everyday usage, and has a clear meaning that overlaps at least metaphorically with most examples of the more unusual word."

      For example, "death nail" for "death knell" or, of course eggcorn for acorn. They are words of English that mostly make sense in the context but aren't the right words. See?

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  5. I can't think of a particular song that I heard wrong growing up. I am sure there were plenty but I just can't think of one off the top of my head.

    As an adult, given that I review CDs for KNAC.com and write articles about cassette albums for Limelight Magazine.com, when I listen to an album I pretty much read along when the album has lyrics included. It is much harder to hear the lyrics wrong when you are reading them.

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    1. I wish all "albums" (mine are all CDs) had the lyrics, Jay. I'm terrible at sussing them out on my own.

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    2. Basically, we need cheat sheets.

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    3. Julia, I'm a CD fanatic myself. I have a small amount of vinyl (not counting the stuff my mother had). And I have the cassettes I got before CDs were the main thing, plus the newly bought stuff that I get for my articles. This weekend I picked up the second album from a band called Babylon A.D. and as it turned out it was a promo cassette copy from 1992, and it had NO liner notes at all. So that's going to be an adventure when I write about it.

      Speaking of CDs, I belong to a CD fan group on Facebook and over the weekend a poster put up photos of his collection display...all 38,000 CDs. It was both amazing and jealousy inducing.

      Jenn, I find having the lyrics a help because when there's a noteworthy verse or single lyrical line, I like to be able to refer to it in the review and want to be accurate.

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    4. 38,000 CDs makes my anti-clutter gene go into hyperdrive, Jay! Does he have a system for listening to the collection?

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    5. Ingrid, I don't know if he has a system, but another person in the group did some figuring and said that it would take him 21 years to listen to every album in his collection without repeating.

      And it isn't cluttered at all. This is all beautifully displayed and stored in a bevy of wall shelving units.

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    6. 38,000 CD's?!! I probably own 300 or 400 and I don't think that includes the singles. Hard to count them. They're all over the place.

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  6. What is with this “jasmine in my mind” ? Clearly, well for me anyway, it is “blowing through the charms of my mind”! Thank you for the smiles this morning, Jenn, the rest of the Reds, and the commentators.

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    1. These make me laugh, too! Charms - still better than jasmine.

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  7. Was it only last year? A song I heard often was Body Like A Back Road" but I kept hearing body like a backhoe! I would shake my head and think that can't be right. Finally I had to look up the lyrics and decided that maybe back road did make a little bit more sense.

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    1. An interesting new variation on being built like a brick--house? At least the backhoe has arms.

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  8. Are you SURE it's not canyons of the mind? Thanks for the early AM laughs!

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    1. I know! Really, what were they thinking?

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    2. I think the real question is "what were they smoking?"

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  9. I love the Foggerty story! Classic! Mostly, I seem to get the lyrics right, and I fall more into Julia's camp. When the guys were middle-schoolish, it seemed there was so much music out there with the most inane lyrics--I won't slander aanyone's fave here--and I couldn't help myself, I'd start singing along with my own version of really stoopid verses. Which I alone found hilarious. :-)

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    1. A friend of mine used to sing “Hey, Leprosy” to the Gin Blossoms “Hey, Jealousy” and we would laugh and laugh and now I’m married to a guy who plays with those guys. We don’t talk about it but I still sing it in my head.

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  10. Dang it! Ingrid got my favorite mondegreen--that bathroom on the right. But I'm a Dire Straits fan, and it's always a challenge to try to figure out what Mark Knopfler is mumbling about. It took me digging out the liner notes to discover that the chorus to "Heavy Fuel" was, sensibly enough "Heavy, heavy fuel," rather than "Dedicated fuel." I still hear it the wrong way.

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    1. I loved the Dire Straits! But, yup, a mumbler! It was actually my Hub who reviewed the Foggerty show back in his music editor days - I forgot to differentiate the names - oops!

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  11. I run into them all the time, though I tend to blame the fact that in my youth, we were usually listening to pop music over really bad speakers. Back in the day my husband was a DJ, though, so he usually knows the correct lyrics.

    My mother passed a couple years ago, but near her passing there was a popular country song out where the key line of the refrain was "I can buy me a boat." She was in the car with my sister when that song played and she turned to my sister and said, "I wonder why he wants to buy a bone?"

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    1. LOL! Moms are the best for mondegreens.

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  12. Body like a backhoe!! It's even better than the actual lyric.

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  13. Yep, we all do it at one time or another. With the recent Ed Sheeran song, "Perfect," I was going around singing "barefoot on the cross" for too long before I thought to myself, what the heck does that have to do with anything? Turns out it's "barefoot on the grass" (with a Scottish Accent) - which makes so much more sense. (I mean, I knew it was a love song and I just thought the girl was heavenly...oh nevermind, there is no excuse!)

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    1. I think I like your version better, Kristopher. It adds a whole other level to Ed Sheeran's song composition!

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    2. I thought the same thing, Kristopher! Too funny!

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    3. Ed Sheeran...the man who single-handedly destroyed an episode of 'Game of Thrones'.

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  14. When I was veryyy little, I sang "76 strong bones led the big parade!!"

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  15. Jasmine? Really? I do this all the time. Reading the lyrics takes all the fun out of it. All my Monday morning-fogged brain can come up with is alternative lyrics to "We are the champions" which my kids used to sing on the way to every game, match, and meet, depending on the sport.

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  16. I can understand why it's easy to hear "there's a bathroom on the right"! The funniest mondegreen I've ever hear of was someone who misheard Barry Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It" as "Looks Like Tomatoes" (pronounce to "tomaytas" and you can here it). LOL

    BTW, I had no idea it was "Jasmin": I thought it was "castles."

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  17. And of course “Jose, can you see, by the dawn’s early light...”

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  18. Omg! For YEARS I thought the BeeGee’s ‘More than a woman’ was ‘Bald headed woman’ WHAT?!?! Funnily enough in my ‘2nd career’ I became a Massage Therapist specializing in Oncology massage, where I welcomed many ‘bald headed women’ into my massage room-outfitted w/a wig stand, naturally. Was it fate?

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    1. You know I'm going to hear that forever now... :)

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    2. I've also heard "Four legged woman."

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  19. In the more innocent days of my college years (60s) there were many discussions about the Beatles’ lyrics. Could it possibly be “I get high” or was it “I can’t hide”? Shocking!
    My hearing is sketchy and my memory is worse but I love to sing. I treat lyrics as suggestions.

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  20. The John Fogerty one is my favorite and a classic.

    The Boy was playing something in the car recently and the lyric sounds like "I'll love you to 2005." And I said it was weird to sing a year that is 13 years in the past for a newish song. "No, Mom. It's 3005."

    Oh.

    I'm usually okay with classic song lyrics, but a lot of current songs leave me scratching my head.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I think current pop hits are a long way off from Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin.

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    2. The hooligans had me listening to rap on our July road trip. I learned A LOT. So much of it is more like street poetry - but, yeah, some of the lyrics were lost on me.

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  21. You guys crack me up! I am always belting out some made-up song at my cats and dog, much to their chagrin! The dog just wags his tail, but the cats, I swear, roll their eyes!

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  22. A friend always heard Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers from waaaay back) as Secret Asian Man. Now he’ll always be Secret Asian Man to me! My mother-in-law heard Shame on You when Aretha sang Chain of Fools.

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    1. I never knew it was Chain! So funny, I heard, "Chay, chay, chay...

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    2. Aretha! That's one of my faves.

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    3. I got that one right, probably because I was watching the TV show--https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMw4WpWD0jk

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  23. When the song first came out, I ALWAYS thought it was “the bathroom’s on the right”! I could not understand the lyrics at all. A friend and I discussed this, and she agreed with me that the lyrics were weird. I don’t remember when I finally learned the correct words.

    And the words are NOT “the chasms of my mind”? Huh. Who knew!

    I have been singing “ashes, ashes, we all fall down” for my entire life!

    I’m sure there are other songs that I’ve been singing incorrectly since I first heard them. Now I know there’s name for that!

    DebRo

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    1. When I heard about the plague origins, I thought ashes made sense, because they probably burned the bodies...

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    2. Mondegreens? Who knew? Well, Hank and Edith, clearly.

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  24. I still can't hear the correct lyrics to "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" by the Hollies even after looking them up! I thought one line was "beer and bonafides baby home every night" (I know, it makes no sense) but it's actually "A pair of forty fives made me open my eyes" ... Also I hear "Sitting in a messed up bed, man." When it is actually "Sitting in a nest of bad men."

    I've seen a video of Jimi Hendrix where he actually said "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" then pointed to one of his guitarists and laughed ~

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  25. The only one that comes to mind is the theme from the Patty Duke Show. I always thought it was a "hop that makes her lose control" not a hot dog!

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  26. My ex use to think a Black Crowes song was "Lemonade" until I told him it was Remedy.
    Can I have some remedy?
    (All I want is a remedy)
    Remedy for me, please.

    But when I hear the song now, I hear Lemonade and start laughing.

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    1. I can see the confusion. Lemonade works!

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  27. I thought that the lyrics for Jump by Van Halen were, "Maxwell, jump!" (they are actually "Might as well jump!")
    I could never understand who Maxwell was. I was well in to adulthood before I knew the correct words.

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    1. Maxwell, jump! I am dying. So funny!

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    2. Wow, I never would've thought "Jump" would be on this list.

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  28. Beatles: "She came in through the Barsoom widow". A friend insisted that was the lyric, no matter how hard I tried to correct him, until I got the written lyric.

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  29. Years ago my daughter was playing Madonna up in her bedroom. The words I found out later were "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro" I was in the kitchen singing, 'Last night I stepped on a bagel"

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  30. Laughing my butt off here. I also thought it was "there's a bathroom on the right" until my daughter, who was then about fourteen, set me straight.

    This, from the girl who at age two sang Delta Dawn, banging her toy tambourine on her leg, wailing "Could it be a pantyhose from days gone byyyyyyy?" and who later thought there were Jello men in the middle of the ABC's: ABCDEFGHIJKJelloMenOP.

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    1. Love the JelloMen in the alphabet- I can totally relate.

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  31. Although I regularly get words wrong on some of the songs today, with my teen granddaughter advising me of the correct lyrics, the best mondegreen prize in our family goes to my son. My daughter and I still laugh about it. In the late 90s, there was a song by Martin Page entitled, "In the House of Stone and Light." The actual lyrics were: I'm telling you, I will not rest till I lay down my head
    In the house of stone and light
    I'll make my way, O gonna be such a beautiful day
    In the house of stone and light
    In the house of stone and light

    However, my then ten-year-old son somehow got "in the land of stolen cattle hides" out of that. We still remind the now 31 year old young man of that.

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  32. I am famous for these. I told my daughters I liked the song about Galileo although I didn't understand the context it was used in and they drew a blank. When it came on the radio, they spent a lot of time wiping away tears and then told me the song was saying baby, let's go, not Galileo.

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    1. Ah!!! I thought it was Galileo, too!!!

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  33. Singers need to make sure their lyrics are easily understood. If not, they should re-record that portion! I'm sure I've misheard a lot - sometimes songs are unintelligible. The first song that comes to mind is the one where they say "Give me the beat boys and free my soul." I always thought it was "Give me the Beach Boys" until I heard a radio D.J. say it's not the Beach Boys. That was a few years ago.

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    1. Hmm; so it’s not “give me the freedom to reach my soul”? I’ve learned so much today!

      DebRo

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    2. Classic. Yes, this has been quite the learning experience.

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  34. The one that comes to mind is by Elton John "Hold me closer Tony Danza" WHICH at the time would not have been all that bad!

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  35. I thought the Beatles sang "hold your hand in AAEEIII" instead of "Mine". In the Doxology, I was an adult when they only put the hymn number and I read the correct version. I always wondered why it was only " the preachers here below". Guess what it's "Creatures"! There are a number of modern songs that I'm not sure what they are singing. Not everyone enunciates as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Perry Como did.

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    1. Bless their hearts, those crooners knew how to get it right.

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  37. I still laugh at my little sister singing along with the Clash, "Rock the Cashbox". (The guys in the band were rocking the Casbah.)

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  38. When I was a teenager, many of my friends spent hours listening to songs and writing down the words-- back in the days when we had 45's and no written words. My ex- was in a band and he had pages of song lyrics written in his precise printing, saved from his early high school band days. And the discussions of the words to "Louie, Louie" and what they should sing at a gig. Of course LPs usually had liner notes but they didn't always include lyrics. My husband has an extensive vinyl collection and when you read some of the liner notes, you're pretty sure they were written while the author was inhabiting another reality and they probably couldn't recall the words to their songs even if they wanted to.

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  39. Ahem. I may be the only person in the world who knows all the words to the song from which Mondegreens derive. "They have slain the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green. Oh, woe to the Huntley..." It goes on. A beautiful song. Even if Lady Mondegreen never really appears.

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  40. Oh and "secret..Asian man...secret..Asian man". I swear I hear it to this day. (Secret agent man).

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  41. When my son was little he insisted that Kenny Rogers sang "With 400 children and a crock in the field". He asked me "What's a crock in the field, mom?"

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  42. Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton. My sister and I sang Highlands Industries. No clue why we thought that was right. And the bathroom will always be on the right

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  43. I have a dear friend that sings just about everything wrong. My favorite is: "on a dark desert highway, Cool Whip and a bear."

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  44. I am late to the show, but had to share my new favorite Mondogreen: "the ants are my friends, they're blowin' in the wind, the ants are just blowing in the wind" !!! Laughed so hard the first time I read it tears ran down my face.

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  45. Going waaay back.... 1962: He’s a Rebel by The Crystals...How he holds his head up high when he goes walking by. My friendDiana said she thought Howie was kind of a weak sounding name for a rebel. Great hilarity and near wetting of the pants ensued as we corrected her.

    A few years later she thought The Buckingham’s
    Kind of a Drag was a commercial for Canada Dry. Canada Dry, when your baby don’t love you.
    Hey, that one kind of makes sense.

    As for me, certain words, like phenomenal or abdominal enter my brain to the tune of The Muppets’ Mahna Mahna, and spin around in my head for hours! Phenomenal do do do do do. Phenomenal do do de do. There, now it’s in your heads!

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