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18 January 2009


I love a good mondegreen.

For those who are not familiar with the term, it was invented by US writer Sylvia Wright, who had misheard a 17th century ballad. The final two lines of a verse were:

They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And laid him on the green.

Sylvia thought it was

They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

My first mondegreen:
Tis the season to be Charley [jolly].
You can blame my Disney Christmas tape for that.

My most recent mondegreen:
Lips parted like a fraggle unfurled [a flag all unfurled]
From The Decemberists' Summersong.

My favourite mondegreens:

Our land abounds in nature strips [nature's gifts]
-Australian National Anthem

Hold me closer Tony Danza [tiny dancer]
-Tiny Dancer, Elton John

You'd think that I could rustle up a little soft-shoe Dennis Quaid [gentle sway]
-I Don't Feel Like Dancing, Scissorsisters

What are yours?


Susannah said...

For the longest time I thought Bryan Adams got his first real sex dream (six string) in the summer of '69

I love
While shepherds watched their flocks by night
Horsey dead on the ground
(all seated on the ground)

The story I heard about this involves a mother being unable to work out why her daughter keeps saying 'poor horsey, poor horsey' everytime they sing it.

RoboFillet said...

Do you by chance watch K80Blog on YouTube? It's either that or Tony Danza is a common mondegreen. I often sing about Tony Danza - he's a bit of an earworm actually.

Penni said...

Young girls with eyes like potatoes
La Isla Bonita, Madonna.

And look, I know it's the desert now, but I still totally hear potatoes. And potatoes do have eyes, so it even makes sense in a weird sort of way.

A friend of mine thought 'I get dressed for success' (Roxette) was 'I get undressed for some sex'

parker said...

My own was:
You spin me right ‘round, baby
Right ‘round like a razor blade (record, baby)

When I sang it out loud (humiliatingly recently) my friend nearly drove off the road because he was laughing so much. he asked how a razor blade could possibly make sense. i said that i always thought it was a bit strange but that they must just have round razor blades in the US...

my favourite was a friends when he was very young:
skippy the buff danggadoo

jellyfish said...

Mondegreens! One of my favorite subjects! How glorious.

Recently, during a round of SingStar, someone was doing Rocket Man by Elton John, and I was like, 'Can't they use the real lyrics? Is it copyright?' And they were like, wtf? And I was like, Well, the real lyrics are:

'Rocket Man! Burning up the Streets of Babylon!'

And everyone else was, er, no, see there on the screen where it says,

'Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone!'


Oh faily mcfail. I had a rather vivid image of what the Streets of Babylon... in space... looked like.

jonathan said...

I don't have any to add myself, but is a good place to see some others.

One of my favourites from there is, "Hello Douglas (darkness) my old friend, I've come to speak with you and Jen (again)"

Anonymous said...

I love mondegreens. I recently embarrassed myself by jokingly saying 'Well, what IS your kind of chicken, David?' while listening to Suffragette City. My friends stared at me like I was a crazy lady until I explained that I thought the lyric was 'Don't lean on me, man, cos you ain't my kinda chicken'.

AFTER they stopped laughing they said it was 'cos you ain't got time to check it' which does make a lot more sense.

Not a mondegreen, but it's also advisable not to forget yr mum's in the car with you and start singing along to Rocks by Primal Scream. Awkward.

Andrew said...

"Jose, can you see...?"

Or, for something a little closer to home:
"Australians all love ostriches..."

Georg said...

Andrew, glad to hear I'm not the only one who heard ostriches...I thought it was "Australian sunset ostriches"

Keith said...

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 make "mondegreen" a household word. It involves a quirky novel written by MANDY GREEN (yep, a mondegreen of "mondegreen") whose story centers on a mondegreen ("Gesundheit Whistle" misheard as GAZOON HIGH TWIZZLE). Please check out the site and tell all your friends named MANDY GREEN. They'll particularly like the page "What is a mondegreen?", with a killer video full of 'em.

I'm a native of Vermont, and this is my favorite mondegreen (from the Beach Boys' "Kokomo"):

To Martinique, that Monserrat mystique

misheard as

Vermont’s unique, Vermont’s a rotten state

See animation of the new way to respond to a sneeze at

Nicki Greenberg said...

I just had to google Manfred Man's "Blinded by the light", because I've always wondered why anyone would write the lyrics:

"Wrapped up like a douche, another runner in the night"...

Turns out it's "revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded by the light". Who knew?

jonathan said...

@Nicki - I actually like your version better than the real one!

Nicola said...

This one's kind of embarrassing, but:

In Madonna's La Isla Bonita, she seems to sing, "Chop the goolies, island breeze." It's actually "Tropical the island breeze," which is pretty dull by comparison, although no doubt a relief to those of you who have goolies.

james roy said...

I've got two.

The first one makes little sense, because it uses a made-up word, and it's somewhat intentionalbut my friend Shannon and I sing the US national anthem thusly: 'Oh say can you see, by the dawnsly light.'

But when I was in Year 10, I thought 'Islands in the Stream' was terribly risque, considering Dolly and Kenny were apparently singing: 'And we will lie on each other, aha.'

Rachel said...

I always thought Booby McFerrin's Don't worry be happy was

'The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to lift the gate' instead of

'The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate'

I thought it was strange but as a 12 year old I had never even heard of the word litigate.

lili said...

Oh! And I used to think that Sade's "Smooth Operator" was "Boom Operator". Because my dad was a boomie at the time.

Naomi said...

I make the 'douche' mistake with Blinded by the Light ALL the time. Even worse, I forget that I've looked it up and found the correct lyrics, and then feel SUPER stupid when I re-learn them. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

my sister and I always sang "wrapped up like a douche antoher odor in the night". It just made sense some how.