Misheard lyrics, sometimes known as mondegreens are near homophones which confuse but can be amusing at the same time. The term ‘mondegreen’ was coined in an article by Sylvia Wright in an article published by Harpers in 1954 and comes from the fourth line of Percy’s Reliques that her mother used to recite to her. The stanza should say
“They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray, and Laid him on the green.”
However, Wright thought both the earl and a Lady Mondegreen had both been murdered.
The best thing about mondegreens is that they are so often better than the original lyric or line. When I was a child I thought Michael Jackson went to the post office to buy himself a fizzy drink.
“Get down to the post office, don’t drop ‘til you get a pop!” whereas, rather incredibly, the real lyric is “keep on with the force don’t stop, don’t stop ‘til you get enough.”
Because we learn language not only by listening but contextualising and (usually) looking at the mouth of our interlocutor pop songs and poetry lend themselves very well to misunderstanding. Pop songs have little or no context and poetry tends to use language strangely in order to make use of rhyme, metre and rhythm.
There are of course anti-mondegreens, Steve Miller, in his song The Joker invented ‘pompatus’ because he couldn’t think of anything else that would fit, creating the line “Some people call me Maurice, ‘cos I speak of the pompatus of love.”
Fallout Boy’s This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race, a song I could not stand, even with the hilarious mondegreen “Lucy Lucy is a God damned arse face” while the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s By The Way is almost unintelligible as Anthony Kiedis sings about “card shop” “corn job” and the wonderful sequence “hoo ha kiss you little monkey” and “daddy’s the girl who used to sing you songs beneath the monkey, over flowed.”
Oasis sang about their favourite British supermarket in Wonderwall with “Maybe, you’re gonna be the one at Sainsbury’s” while Queen sang about the demonic possession of furniture with “Beelzebub has a devil set a sideboard. Me, for me.”
However, the best mondegreens come from songs in different languages. Because you try to find sense in sounds that you simply don’t understand hilarious combinations begin to develop. This being so, I leave you with The Indian Nipple Song!
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