I saw a music video post on Facebook the other day from my friend Mark Davis. It was Procol Harum’s classic, “Whiter Shade of Pale.” One of Mark’s friends replied that he always thought the verse was, “they skipped thru life fandango,” which is actually pretty close. That caused Davis to respond, “A classic mondegreen.” I knew what he was saying, but looked it up anyway.
Mondegreen—noun 1. a misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song.
It got me to thinking back to some of the other mondegreens I had run across over the years. My all-time favorite came one afternoon as my friend Randy Morley and I were headed out for some lunch. The classic rock station we were listening to was taking requests and a lady called in and asked for “11-Inch Butt,” by The Who.
The DJ didn’t reply right away, and finally said, “I guess I’m not familiar with that one.”
The caller said, “It’s one of their biggest hits!” So he asked if she could sing some of it, to which she didn’t hesitate, belting out, “11-INCH BUTT, IT’S A PUT ON!”
She actually had a pretty good voice and nailed the melody, so that the DJ, as well as Randy and I, knew just what she was asking for. We drove the next few miles laughing, while listening to “Eminence Front.” The strange part was, after a few choruses, I wasn’t sure she was wrong. Next time you hear it, replace eminence front with 11-inch butt and you’ll see what I mean.
This all got me to wondering who came up with the word mondegreen in the first place. And as it turns out, a mondegreen is one itself. Back in 1954, American writer Sylvia Wright told that when her mother read to her from the Scottish ballad, “The Bonny Earl of Murray,” by Bishop Thomas Percy, she heard the lyric “layd him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen.” So there you have it.
A few other mondegreens you may be familiar with are—
“There’s a bathroom on the right,” from “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR (There’s a bad moon on the rise)
“Scuse me while I kiss this guy,” from “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix (Scuse me while I kiss the sky)
“The girl with colitis goes by” (from “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles (The girl with kaleidoscope eyes)
Speaking of the Fab Four, my wife KM had her own mondegreen back when we were in high school. She always heard, “The long and winding road, Ka..aa..aa..theee.” (instead of “that leads”). I’m sure it had nothing to do with her name being Kathy.
Also in high school, our pal Stan (the man) Pruss was sure Golden Earring was singing, “And the radio plays that forgotten song. Stan-a-ley, coming on strong.” (Sorry Brenda Lee).
You probably have some favorites of your own. If so I’d love to hear one. However it will have to be a doozy to top the 11-Inch Butt.
College football is here at last. As you could probably guess, for me, being a Razorback fan has been difficult for awhile now. A problem you folks down here in Tide country aren’t that familiar with. Our first game was against Rice.
The second game for the Hogs is at home against the Longhorns, our nemesis from the old SWC, and returning soon as our new nemesis from the SEC. Sorry Missouri, there’s a new rivalry in town.
Many years ago Hog fans came up with our own special mondegreen, for whenever the Longhorn band play their fight song. Instead of, “Texas Fight! Texas Fight! For it’s Texas that we love best!” Razorback fans always hear, and loudly sing, “Texas bite! Texas bite! Texas jump up and bite my…!”
Cause there’s nothing like a good mondegreen to get you through the lean years.