I love a good mondegreen

It’s no secret that I’m a music junkie. I love listening to something new, particularly while I’m writing. If there’s one thing I hate, though, it’s discovering a new artist and then finding out that everyone has heard them first. I’m not sure why it happens but I’ve discovered some of my favourite artists that way.

That’s why I was thrilled when I heard Feist’s 1234; I had the feeling it might be big, and then Apple used it in their iPod commercials. But it’s kind of ironic because, much as I love the song, I didn’t realise until a few days ago that I had actually misheard the lyric all this time. It was fairly minor; I thought Oh, you’re changing your heart was Oh, changing is hard. But I still feel a bit silly. Good thing I didn’t try to sing it in front of anyone. 😉

It can be embarrassing when you mix up lyrics, but a good mondegreen can be a lot of fun as well. The name comes from a line in The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray which was misheard as “they have slain the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen” (“laid him on the green”) and many people swear that they sound better than the original.

So I thought after my mistake with Feist that it’d be fun to post some of my favourite mondegreens. The list is a mix of a couple I’ve misheard myself and others which are common. I wonder if you have any favourites?

  • Purple Haze
    Jimi Hendrix

    Original lyric: ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
    Misheard as: ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy
    (Hendrix used to sing it at some of his concerts, adding to the confusion)

  • (Build Me Up) Buttercup
    The Foundations

    Original lyric: Build me up, Buttercup
    Misheard as: Fill me up, Buttercup

  • Advance Australia Fair
    Original lyric: Australia’s Sons let us rejoice for we are young and free
    Misheard as: Australia, Sunset Ostriches for we are young and free
    (The line ended up being changed to “Australians all let us rejoice”)

  • Truly Madly Deeply

    Original lyric: I want to lay like this forever until the sky falls down on me
    Misheard as: I want to lay like this forever until this guy falls down on me
    (One of mine. Major embarrassment)

  • Tiny Dancer
    Elton John

    Original lyric: Hold me closer tiny dancer,
    Count the headlights on the highway
    Misheard as: Hold me closer, Tony Danza,
    Count the head lice on the highway

  • Bad Moon Rising
    Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Original lyric: There’s a bad moon on the rise
    Misheard as: There’s a bathroom on the right

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    Original lyric: Mama mia, Mama mia, let me go
    Misheard as: Mama mia, Mama mia, Mexico
    (Another of mine. Does anyone really understand Bohemian Rhapsody?)

  • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
    The Beatles

    Original lyric: The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
    Misheard as: The girl with colitis goes by

  • Radio Nowhere
    Bruce Springsteen

    Original lyric: Is there anybody alive out there?
    Misheard as: Is there anybody in love out there?
    (One of mine again. It actually gives the song a different meaning)

  • Tangled up in Blue
    Bob Dylan
    Original lyric: We split up on a dark, sad night
    Misheard as: We split on the docks that night

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    Original lyric: All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
    Misheard as: Olive the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
    (Inspired a children’s book and TV show Olive, the Other Reindeer)

15 thoughts on “I love a good mondegreen

  1. Oh, there’s a name for these things! Thanks! I particularly enjoyed Elton, Creedence, and Beatles. I *may* forgive you for reminding me of one of the colossal embarrassments of my teenage years. There was a multi-era radio station playing, I was singing along with the song, when my friends stopped talking, actually pointed at me, and began to scream with laughter. I only had one word wrong in the lyrics. The original Neil Young lyrics were” “Dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup with the promise of a man”. I sang “drink up” instead of “dream up”, which sounded reasonable at the time, as we were talking about a cup, and all. This one word does change the meaning slightly. But significantly. 😳 Has “this guy” got up from you yet? 😉

    CJ: Isn’t mondegreen such a great name? I always thought there had to be some kind of name for them but didn’t know it myself until a few months ago. I love that they named it after a misheard word; it’s the ultimate synchronicity. 🙂

    The Elton one is so funny; makes you wonder just how many people had a crush on Tony Danza! And that’s cruel about the Neil Young song… sounds like a simple mistake to make, but what else are friends for? I remember once I thought I was by myself and was singing Bohemian Rhapsody; I turned around and one of my friends was by the door and told me I had it all wrong. I don’t know which I was more embarrassed about, the singing or the lyrics. 😕

    “This guy” hasn’t appeared yet, luckily! Maybe I can swap him for “this girl” instead, eh? I wouldn’t be complaining then. 😆

  2. lolll! CJ, I thought was so funny…I am sure I must mishear all the time..won’t make list will be too long..loll!! Thanks for sharing ur ”mondegreens”…


    CJ: Thanks, CV! I’m so glad you liked them. Sometimes I think we can take ourselves too seriously, so I’m always happy to have a laugh at my own mistakes. 😉

    Sorry your comment didn’t go straight through, btw… WP must be playing up again… or maybe it was the ghost of Lady Mondegreen…

  3. Interesting to know that there’s a name for such mistakes.

    And then there are vile people who distort songs intentionally, with the sole aim of confusing their kid sisters. Hint: Such vile people resemble my brother. Closely.

    He taught me a song, where the lyrics had been replaced by swear words. And I sang that in my school. My Catholic school 😥

    CJ: It’s a funny kind of name, isn’t it? It’s good there is a name, but a misheard phrase isn’t the first thing you’d think of with mondegreen… sounds more like a mouldy cheese.

    So people really do that? I’ve had people try to convince me that the wrong lyrics were actually the right ones even when they knew they weren’t, but to do that to a song on purpose… and then let you sing it in school… I can just imagine how that must have gone. Ouch. 😕

  4. Of course mondegreen is itself a mondegreen – from The Bonny Earl of Moray:

    “They have slain the Earl of Moray / And laid him on the green.” 🙂

    I love mondegreens, and this are some great ones, even if the Bad Moon Rising example sounds a little far-fetched to me!

    CJ: I love that it’s a monegreen itself. You can just imagine children crying over the death of poor Lady Mondegreen, only to find out later that she never existed! Classic. 😉

    Bad Moon Rising‘s an interesting one… it’s actually the second most common mondegreen, but I’m with you, it’s the one I’m the least likely to mishear. Most people don’t hear that in Truly Madly Deeply, though, so I shouldn’t complain! 🙂

    Welcome back, btw. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.

  5. I could so relate to the discovering something and then liking it less when everyone else catches on. I am the same way.

    I have had a few mondegreen myself. One I rember was when I was in second grade.
    The song Rock the Casbah was on at a rolling skating party I was at.
    The older kids were singing it at the top of their lungs and I really thought they were singing F**** the Casba.
    I remember thinking, should I sing it with them so they like me. I think I ended up muttering it and then abruptly stopping because I did not like the way I felt doing something I should not have been doing(cursing):).

    CJ: It’s so annoying when that happens, isn’t it? I remember hearing Snow Patrol for the first time and liking them, but then finding out that everyone was talking about them… it just didn’t feel the same after that.

    Rock the Casbah‘s an interesting one. I think some schools banned it here for being “culturally insensitive”. I always took it as being about the banning of rock music in Iran, so I guess they didn’t hear the same thing I did. 😕

    That’s funny what you heard it as, though. Good thing you didn’t sing it more loudly, eh? I don’t think I could have brought myself to say it either. 🙂

  6. Our boys are convinced the song goes:

    “Old King Grollie on the Mountain”

    When I told it was Glory not grollie, they insisted it was and said it was a song about sneezing…

    CJ: Old King Glory’s about sneezing? Wow, I’ve had the meaning wrong all these years! I guess it could have been worse; they could have thought “the mountain was so high” meant pot. 🙂

    If they still think it’s wrong, you could show them the lyrics online… that’s funny, though. I remember I used to get mixed up with Young Hunting when I was younger a bit like that. I could have sworn “light down upon my hand” was “lie upon the sand”…

  7. I get really annoyed when stuff I like catches on. I am something of a culture snob. 😛

    And some of those mondegreens are really funny.

    John Lennon sometimes sang ‘I wanna hold your gland…’ instead of ‘I wanna hold your hand’ during concerts. No one could notice it though because of all the screaming.

    CJ: Glad I’m not the only one! It’s not being that much of a snob, though… we all like to have something which is just ours, or be the first to discover something. When it catches on, it doesn’t feel as special. That’s why I’ve started going for more alternative artists. If they never catch on, I don’t have to share! 😉

    I didn’t know that about John Lennon. That’s a good one and I could see him doing that… probably a lot of singers do, actually. If you think about how many times they sing a song, it must get monotonous sometimes. Maybe that’s where a lot of mondegreens come from, they just start experimenting.

  8. SIT in SMH used to regularly run articles on Mondegreens.

    Oh yes, some of us (if we’re old enough) understand Bohemian Rhapsody. Some of us even inflict our 1970-80’s sensitivities on our offspring. At my daughter’s 16th (she’s nearly 20 now) she did Bohemian Rhapsody karaoke, not a word wrong and including air guitar. Sadly she’s flat as a tack and at that age didn’t even have alcohol as an excuse. LOL

    Nice blog, I will visit occasionally (because it’s horrible to have your parents’ acquaintances impose themselves upon you). LOL

    CJ: Hi Kate, thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry I missed those in SMH; it would have been fun, keeping track of all the different ones. I guess now there are websites like Kiss This Guy dedicated to mondegreens, though, there’s not as much point doing them.

    Bohemian Rhapsody is actually one of my favourite songs; it just sounds so weird when you hear it for the first time. Not sure I could go as far as karaoke, though! Must have made for a memorable 16th. 😉

    Feel free to drop by whenever you like; I always enjoy meeting new people and MQ has great taste in acquaintances. 🙂 Look forward to having a look at your blog too.

  9. Has anyone else thought that “Mony Mony” sounds like guacamole?

    CJ: Can’t say I have. But Weird Al Yankovic did a parody called Alimony. That’s very funny. 😉

  10. One of my favorites is from Marshall Tucker “Searchin for a Rainbow”
    Actual lyric “I’ll say ‘to hell’ with that pot of gold”
    Heard “I’ll seed a hill with that pot of gold”

    CJ: That’s a good one, DG. Maybe that’s where the leprechaun myth comes from. 😉

  11. I haven’t seen anyone yet mention “wrapped up like a douche” (should read “revved up like a deuce”) from Blinded By The Light. Maybe everyone thinks that is the real lyric?

    CJ: It could be that, Lolly; I’m afraid I don’t know the song that well to know the lyric, but Am I Right shows quite a few people have misheard the lyric, so maybe it is fairly common. I like that one, though; some of these mondegreens are classics.

  12. Love a mondegreen… I would like to see a TV/ movie character who spoke soley in mondegreens

    my Finnish GF supplied these two:
    from the second birthday song
    “…for he’s a jolly good fellow, and nobody can be nice” (nobody can deny)

    from the cartoon show Transformers song
    “transformers, robots in the skies” (in disguise)

    CJ: Now that’s an interesting idea. Maybe an alien who starts to learn human language through music but keeps getting the words confused? I might have to steal that for my writing!

    Thanks for the mondegreens as well. I can see that about the Transformers; it sounds so similar. But the birthday one’s unforgivable. 🙂

  13. I always used to enjoy singing along to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “I’m fightin’ Dorothy and Dorothy always wins”. Imagine my heartbreak when the wife told me it’s “I fight authority, authority always wins”. The world is a cruel, cruel place…

    CJ: Ouch! Cruel indeed…

  14. Nearly bust something laughing at “colitis” in Lucy in the Sky (in fairness, there’s nothing in that song to tip you off that you might be singing anything weirder than the rest of it) and “Olive, the other reindeer…”
    I had “oh oh oh oh camel fuzz, things are never quite the way they seem” in the song “Camouflage”. Made no sense, but then little did at that age, when I had not long figured out that Adam Ant wasn’t actually a highwayman.
    And I don’t care what any one says, “somewhere miscellaneous lord, I let her slip away” is far better than “somewhere near Sallinas…” Not my fault that Kristofferson wrote it wrong.

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