Saturday, December 22, 2007

Clowns In My Coffee

Well, Christmas is three days away, and the world is going down the toilet. So I'm not in the mood for a "God-bless-us-every-one" blog entry. But that doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor. So, I'm going to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite mondegreens.
We all have words and phrases that we have misread or misheard over the years, and the phrase "mondegreens" has been coined to describe them. In recent years, collections of mondegreens, particularly phrases in popular songs, have become popular. Some of the most common mondegreens, such as "'Scuze me while I kiss this guy" and "There's a bathroom on the right" have become pop culture phrases in themselves.
Some misheard song phrases have had bigger implications than a good laugh. The FBI investigated The Kingsmen for two years due to rumors that "Louie Louie" contained dirty lyrics. Rumors that Paul McCartney was dead began when a line from "Strawberry Fields Forever"--"cranberry sauce"--was misheard as "I buried Paul." And some radio stations balked at playing The Rascals' "Groovin'" because "you and me endlessly" was misheard as "you and me and Leslie."
I have misheard many lyrics, particularly when I was a child, so mondegreens are near and dear to my heart. Allow me to share with you a few of the mangled lyrics I've picked up over the years:

WRONG: Gimme that old-time pigeon
RIGHT: Gimme that old-time religion
“Gimme That Old-Time Religion,” traditional

WRONG: Through the courtesy of Pistol Pete
RIGHT: Through the courtesy of blistered feet
Theme from “The Flintstones”

WRONG: We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman until the alligators knock him down
RIGHT: We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman until the other kiddies knock him down
"Winter Wonderland," Darlene Love

WRONG: Track two to Texas
RIGHT: Try to detect it
“Whip It,” Devo

WRONG: I had some dreams, they were clowns in my coffee
RIGHT: I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee

WRONG: Someone who would spy on the wife of a close friend
RIGHT: Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Both “You’re So Vain,” Carly Simon

WRONG: Eat me on a Friday, that’s all right
RIGHT: Eat meat on a Friday, that’s all right
“The Bitch Is Back,” Elton John

WRONG: I may take a little drink and shout out, "Tripoli!"
RIGHT: I may sink a little drink and shout out, "She's with me!"
"Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting," Elton John

WRONG: My God! A Doberman’s got me!
RIGHT: Montgomery’s got the answer!
“Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynyrd Skynyrd

WRONG: I wasn’t what I confessed
RIGHT: I’m worst at what I do best
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana

WRONG: Oh, my disco will begin
RIGHT: Oh, I just don’t know where to begin
“Accidents Will Happen,” Elvis Costello

WRONG: Her hair is Harlow gold
RIGHT: Her hair is hollow gold
“Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes

WRONG: She’s bound to put a cracker on my bed
RIGHT: She’s bound to put a blanket on my bed
“From a Buick 6,” Bob Dylan

WRONG: Our only goal’s to reach the rest of the show
RIGHT: Our only goal’s to reach the western shore

WRONG: So now you’d better stop reaping all your ruin
RIGHT: So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins
Both “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin

WRONG: Ma Rainey and Beethoven were wrapped up in roll
RIGHT: Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped a bedroll
“Tombstone Blues,” Bob Dylan

WRONG: So, open the door
RIGHT: Soy un perdador
“Loser,” Beck

WRONG: Jews in Frothingham
RIGHT: Jeux sans frontiers
“Games Without Frontiers,” Peter Gabriel

WRONG: Precious are these eyes
RIGHT: Yeux sans un visage
“Eyes Without a Face,” Billy Idol

WRONG: We can make men’s shorts
RIGHT: Wie du wirklich sollst
“Wooden Heart,” Joe Dowell

WRONG: Come and take my herb
RIGHT: Plowmen dig my earth
“All Along the Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix
(Note: some of my high school buddies sang this line as “Come and toke my herb” as a joke, but I never heard it as such.)

WRONG: Curse the walls around me, you were such a stupid get
RIGHT: Curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get
“I’m So Tired,” The Beatles

WRONG: I feel so suicidal, just like dinners fixed at home
RIGHT: I feel so suicidal, just like Dylan’s Mister Jones
“Yer Blues,” The Beatles

WRONG: I was educated at Woodstock
RIGHT: I was educated, got good stock
“Soul Man,” Sam and Dave
(Note: “Soul Man” was released two years before Woodstock.)

WRONG: Brightest building wall
RIGHT: Your pride has built a wall
“Still Loving You,” Scorpions

WRONG: Nature is a whore, cruises on a broom
RIGHT: Nature is a whore, bruises on the fruit
“In Bloom,” Nirvana

WRONG: I would not fight
RIGHT: I’ll win the fight
“T.N.T.,” AC/DC

WRONG: We said goodbye to his girl, cheerio
RIGHT: We said goodbye to his skull, shrill yell
“The Black Angel’s Death Song,” The Velvet Underground

WRONG: Adios, au revoir, I’ll be the same
RIGHT: Adios, au revoir, auf wiederseh’n
The closing theme from “The Lawrence Welk Show”

WRONG: Airmen, airmen, airmen, airmen, airmen
RIGHT: Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen
“Amen,” The Impressions

My wife and I ran into a strange mondegreen at karaoke a few weeks ago. Karaoke lyrics often contain mondegreens because many of them are made in Japan by people who may be translating the words phonetically. My wife was singing "Tears Of a Clown," and the line "Just like Pagliacci did" appeared on the screen as "Just like Polly Archer did." She couldn't stop laughing through the rest of the song!
So, to all of you, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Festive Festivus, or whatever you want to celebrate. That means you, too, Polly Archer.