Friday, March 18, 2011

"There's a bathroom on the right..."

In yesterday's "Aqualung" post, I talked about really hearing the lyrics of a song for the first time.  It reminded me of this post from September 2008, when my blog was just a couple of months old.  Since hardly anyone read it back then, I thought I'd repost it today.

Happy Friday!

Today's secret word: "mondegreen"

I often feel like such a Johnny-Come-Lately, like by the time I find out about something, it’s soooo 10 minutes ago.  So I suppose I’m the last person on earth to hear of the word mondegreen. defines mondegreen (pronounced mon-di-green) as “a word or phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.” American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in an essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in November 1954 in Harper’s magazine. Referring to a 17th century poem that her mother read aloud to her as a child, the author tells how she misinterpreted the line "And laid him on the green" as “And Lady Mondegreen.”

My mother told me how when she was a kid, she misheard people referring to “the chest of drawers” as “the Chester drawers.” When my daughter was little, she thought a local newscaster went by the hip nickname “The Heat is On” until she was old enough to read and was shocked to see the name on the television screen was “Benita Zahn.”

Mondegreens often result from misinterpreted song lyrics, and they can be quite entertaining. My favorite mondegreen is the classic “There’s a bathroom on the right,” the line at the end of each verse of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” And of course we all wondered what was going on with Jimi Hendrix when he shouted, “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy!”

Both Creedence's lead singer, John Fogerty, and Hendrix eventually capitalized on their fans’ poor hearing (or was it their own inability to e-nun-ci-ate?) and deliberately sang the mondegreen versions of their songs in concert. Alone in the car, I always sing “There’s a bathroom on the right”; it’s simply more fun that way.

I had my own mondegreen version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” that, quite frankly, had me perplexed for decades:

"I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no...  I'm a rocket man
Rocket man, burning all the Jews I’ve ever known”
Burning all the Jews I’ve ever known?  Jeez, Elton... WTF? Then years later I looked up the real lyrics and was relieved to find the line is “Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.”

Oh. That’s very different.

How about you? Any fun mondegreens to share? And did you even know there was such a word?


Courtney Blackwell said...

The Rolling Stones sing: "I'll never be your beast of burden"

I sing: "Never leave your pizza burnin"

woops. I was way off!

Gina D. said...

I have a handful--but two most notable ones are Steve Winwood's "Roll with It," which I thought was "Go Bridget Baby!"

And Van Morrison's Gloria. When he says G-L-O-R-I-A, I thought it was, "She had it alright, yeah!"


Linda said...

My son used to sing "I spit on your spirit" to the John Denver song when he was four years old. Opened the mouths of many who heard it!

Jamie in PA said...

Alanis Morrisette's song with the line "i'm a bitch..." Well my friend's son would go around singing "I'm a biscuit without butter" He was about 10yrs old at the time.

FleaStiff said...

Tainted Love misheard as Painted Love

Your love has given me wings misheard as given me winks.

This Old Man He Played One,,, misheard as Dipso Dan. (Yeah, as a little kid I thought it was "Dipso").

Paperback writer misheard as Pay The Lamplighter.

Life can be an adventure for those who don't hear too well.

Mellodee said...

"To the bottom and I feel the pain" was what I heard insted of "Tears are fallin' and I feel the pain" (Del Shannon's "Runaway")! It took me YEARS to figure out!! There are others, but that one eluded me forever.

Anonymous said...

Hi again :)

The B-52s song....

roll if you want to, roll around the world....

only for like, 15 years I thought it was

roll Nipsey Russel, roll......

Could not figure out why they wrote a song about him.