Friday, September 28, 2007

My Favorite Mondegreen

Googling something the other day, I came upon the word "mondegreen," and it rang a bell. Looking it up, I remembered why: it's the term for "misheard" song lyrics.

That reminded me instantly of the Bernard Farrell play I produced at the Laguna Playhouse a few years ago called Lovers at Versailles, the title for which (one learns in the play) is a mondegreen of the Frank Sinatra lyrics "lovers at first sight" in the song Strangers in the Night.

A local donor to the Playhouse, Nina Brice, sent that in to the LA Times daily columnist who displays errors in signage and other such gaffes, and he wrote about it.

However, it makes me think of a dispute I had with Alison the first time we heard together the Joni Mitchell song In France They Kiss on Main Street, from her 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Here are the lyrics from the stanza in question:

The dance halls and cafes
Feel so wild you could break
somebody's heart
Just doing the latest dance craze
Gail and Louise
In those push-up brassieres
Tight dresses and rhinestone rings
Drinking up the band's beers
Young love was kissing under bridges
Kissing in cars kissing in cafes
And we were walking down Main Street
Kisses like bright flags hung on holidays
In France they kiss on Main Street
Amour, mama, not cheap display
And we were rolling, rolling, rock 'n' rolling

Alison heard me singing aloud the following lyrics:

Feeling the breeze
In those push-up brassieres

Hey, it made perfect sense to me--so I had never bothered to check the printed lyrics on the album jacket!

Anyway, mondegreen has an official entry in Wikipedia (well, as "official" as you can call anything on that site!), and there is another website I discovered called Am I Right - Making Fun of Music, One Song at a Time.
Both provide additional examples of mondegreens.

Feel free to share your own in comments to this post. I'd be interested to know what you've misheard! (And don't tell me there haven't been any!)

Until next time...


2 comments: said...

I remember that there was a book called "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" (obviously referencing Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" all about misheard song lyrics. So I typed the title into Google and the first site I found listed other versions of the Hendrix lyrics: "Scuse me while I eat my pie," "Scuse me while I zip my fly," "Scuse me while I fist this guy..." you get the point.

When I was in college, I read Alan Watt's autobiography, "My Own Way," where he discusses growing up an Anglican minister's son in a small hamlet in England. He recalls hearing his father's recitation of the ten commandments and the seventh commandment as "Thou shalt not kick the poultry." As a child growing up in the countryside, it made sense to him. As an adult who lead a wild life, it now made more sense to him than "Thou shalt not commit adultery

Rick Stein said...

[I'm taking the liberty of excerpting a comment from an e-mail I received today from Bernard Farrell:]

I do love your Blogs - and I HAD to respond to the one on Mondegreens. (The ultimate has to be "How Mondegreen Is My Valet". Okay okay, it has to be a song-lyric - please forgive, that was just irresistible!!).

I know we often had chats, discussions and comparisons about Mondegreens during my Versailles days there - and maybe I told you how, as a little fellow, I used sing a song with the lyric "All hands on deck, there's a pretty girl in sight"....except, for years, uncorrected, I used sing for all visitors to our house: "Oh Handsome Jack, there's a pretty girl in sight". Cringe-cringe. Not as funny as your "Gail and Louise/feeling the breeze"! But one of my favourites here is a friend who used sing "The Man From Laramie" as a party-piece. The line "He had a flair for ladies - the ladies loved his air of mystery" he always sang as "He had a flair for ladies - the ladies loved his Arab history". !!!