Misunderstandings of lyrics

Evan Morris words1 at WORD-DETECTIVE.COM
Mon Aug 23 02:28:58 UTC 1999

I can't vouch for the authenticity of the examples, but the author is
veteran San Francisco columnist Jon Carroll, who has been collecting
mondegreens for years.  He has done several articles on the subject (a
time-honored columnists' technique technically known as "milking").  See


for more.

At 09:51 PM 8/22/99 , Gerald Cohen wrote:
>     For some years I have been collecting examples of children
>misunderstanding such items  as "round yon  virgin" ("Round John Virgin")
>and "Pontius Pilate" ("Pontius Pilot," resulting in a third grader drawing
>a Christimas picture featuring an airplane with a mother, father and baby,
>plus one additional man in the front; the additional man was "Pontius
>     Recently I received an e-mail message reportedly taken off the
>Internet.  It presents a list of such misunderstandings plus some,
>evidently, made by adults;  I do not vouch for the authenticity of every
> >
> >                  Mondegreens Ripped My Flesh
> >
> >Here at the Center for the Humane Study of Mondegreens, we've been
> >toting up the entries and applying the latest statistical correlative
> >methods,
> >even using our toes, to arrive at a semi-definitive answer.
> >
> >We believe that the most frequently submitted Mondegreen is still "Gladly,
> >the cross-eyed bear" (known in the real world as that fine old hymn "Gladly
> >The Cross I'd Bear"). A close second is "There's a bathroom on the right," a
> >mishearing of "There's a bad moon on the rise" from the old Creedence
> >Clearwater song "Bad Moon Rising."
> >
> >Third place is still firmly held by "Excuse me while I kiss this guy,"
> >actually
> >"Excuse me while I kiss the sky" from the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze."
> >Mr. Hendrix was himself aware that he had been Mondegreened, and would
> >occasionally, in performance, actually kiss a guy after saying that line.
> >
> >Fourth place is probably occupied by Round John Virgin, a Shakespearean
> >figure occasionally found in "Silent Night." Also high on the charts is a
> >Mondegreen from "Groovin'", a popular song of an earlier era. (Kids,
> >"groovin'" was kind of like "chillin'" except the clothing fit more
> >tightly).
> >
> >In that song, the Rascals were singing "You and me endlessly," but many
> >people heard "You and me and Leslie," leading to speculation about the
> >exact identity of Leslie and the popularity of multiple couplings in the
> >music
> >world.
> >
> >For those of you who have not yet received the pamphlet (mailed free to
> >anyone who buys me an automobile), the word Mondegreen, meaning a
> >mishearing of a popular phrase or song lyric, was coined by the writer
> >Sylvia
> >                 Wright.
> >
> >As a child she had heard the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray"
> >and had believed that one stanza went like this:
> >
> >                 Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands
> >                 Oh where hae you been?
> >                 They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
> >                 And Lady Mondegreen.
> >
> >Poor Lady Mondegreen, thought Sylvia Wright. A tragic heroine dying with
> >  her liege; how poetic. When it turned out, some years later, that what
> >they
> >had actually done was slay the Earl of Murray and lay him on the green,
> >Wright was so distraught by the sudden disappearance of her heroine that
> >she memorialized her with a neologism.
> >
> >This space has been for some years the chief publicity agent for
> >Mondegreens. The Oxford English Dictionary has not yet seen the light, but
> >it will, it will.
> >
> >The pledge of allegiance is such a hotbed of Mondegreens that one could
> >create a composite of submitted entries: "I pledge a lesion to the flag, of
> >the
> >United State of America, and to the republic for Richard Stans, one naked
> >individual, with liver tea and just this for all."
> >
> >This formulation is elderly enough to have predated "under God," which is
> >just as well; it would be a shame to lose "one naked individual."
> >
> >There are Mondegreens in familiar phrases. A friend of Adair Lara's
> >believed for years that we live in a "doggy dog world" populated by pushy
> >people with a "no holes barred" attitude, while a friend of Carolyn Stone's
> >
> >believed that World War II was fought between the Zees and the Not Zees.
> >
> >
> >B. Young was charmed to hear that both Coke and Pepsi came in
> >"cheerleader size." Later, he was disappointed to learn that it was actually
> >"two litre size." Florence Jarreth was interested in the new "Jeep
> >Parakeet,"
> >but less interested in the new "Jeep Cherokee."
> >
> >James Lauder recounted the story of the pet shop clerk who told him, in all
> >seriousness, that her parents' wealth did them no good at all because they
> >just sat around their backyard deck in Marin and "drank themselves to
> >Bolivia."
> >Geoffrey Gould's mother was convinced that if, say, you were moving a vase
> >to a high shelf because small children were about to come over, you were
> >moving said vase "out of arm's sway." Stephanie von Buchau always
> >believed, correctly, I should think, that "a soft dancer turneth away
> >wrath."
> >
> >But the overwhelming majority of Mondegreens come from song lyrics.
> >Remember on the East Side and the West Side when me and Mamie
> >O'Rourke "risked our lives in traffic"? Remember when Simon and
> >Garfunkel sang hauntingly about how "partially saved was Mary and Tom"?
> >Remember that touching moment in "I'm in the Mood for Love" when the
> >singer reveals his favorite nickname for his beloved?
> >
> >                 I'm in the mood for love,
> >                 Simply because you're near me,
> >                 Funny Butt, when you're near me ...
> >
> >There was the Bob Dylan song with the memorable refrain: "Dead ants are
> >my friends, they're blowin' in the wind." There was the great Crystal Gayle
> >song "Doughnuts Make Your Brown Eyes Blue." There was the equally
> >  wonderful Maria Muldaur song "Midnight After You're Wasted."
> >
> >Val Kruger heard Jose Feliciano's famous recording of "Feliz Navidad" as
> >"Police naughty dog," and now so will you. Barry McCarthy mentioned
> >another popular Spanish song, "One Ton Tomato." Melissa McChesney
> >always heard "My baby likes the Western movies" as "My baby's like a wet
> >sock moving."
> >
> >Two great Paul McCartney Mondegreens: The lines of French in "Michelle"
> >were heard by Kathy Stawhorn's daughter as "Michelle, ma bell, Sunday
> >monkey won't play piano song, play piano song." Several people have heard
> >the line in "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" that goes "the girl with
> >kaleidoscope eyes" as "the girl with colitis goes by."
> >
> >                 There are many more; many more -- I have envelopes stuffed
> >with them. But our eyes grow weary and our stomachs grow hungry; we must
> >now, in the words of the old Christmas carol, "sleep in heavenly peas."
>gcohen at umr.edu

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