My mother drives like a bat outta hell. Okay, well now she’s retired and in her 60s; so there’s really no need anymore for her to race to garage sales and quilting shows, but when I was a kid she could really floor it! What helped to keep the ride from getting too spicy was music on the radio. Even better, was that she had wonderful music taste. We’d listen to everything– and everyone!– from Genesis to Fleetwood Mac to Parliament to Teddy Pendergrass to Chuck Mangione to Charlie Pride to…..wait , wait, I’m getting distracted. The point is that riding in the car with Mama taught me that good music and fast wheels are like peanut butter and jelly. They’re married!
That also means that now when I’m thinking and driving to work as an adult, I like to sing. LOUD!! And I dance. CRAZY! My butt’s wiggling all over the seat, it’s rush hour, but I’m still snapping my fingers and jamming to the song that’s playing like I’m the only one on the highway. Now, before you laugh, think about what you just did in the shower this morning…or maybe it was karaoke this past weekend. Ummm hmmmm. I thought so.
And like 100% of humans in the world (yeah, YOU) I’m prone to mondegreens when I sing. That’s a fancy pants word for what happens when you hear the words one way but the actual words are something else. Yep, like a misheard song lyric. And man, do I screw up a lot! Just like the folks that sent in their mondegreens to Jimmy Fallon in the video above. Take 4 minutes to wet your pants laughing at the things people hear versus what’s true. I mean, I was just in the car today crooning to an old song by Austrian pop artist, Falco “Rock Me Amadeus,” but what I actually heard was “I’m Potatoes, I’m Potatoes!” instead of “Amadeus, Amadeus!” Yeah, I need new ears. But hold on before you laugh too hard in your wet smarty pants…. think about that last mondegreen you let out. Was it to a Michael Jackson song? Maybe some Nikki Minaj? Maybe even Carrie Underwood…..whoa!
Which brings me to the whole point of this epic tale. Mondegreens aren’t just for music. They happen in our lives too. How many times have you said something that you thought was clear, only to have the recipient of your message hear it in a totally different way? You ask your honey, “Can you take out the trash, dear?” He hears you say, “Want me to bring you a glass of beer?” Sounds light-hearted enough, but what if the stakes are higher….like WORK or LOVE??!! This happened to me once when I thought a love in my life was saying “I love you,” but in reality she was saying “Olive Juice.” Aaaarrrghhhh, it took a long time to straighten that one out! Then, the other day I told my boss “I don’t want to assume those facts.” She heard, “I really hope to be assigned that.” Yeah, that’s when I decided to call in sick to work on account of mondegreen….
But, I guess the real message is, we all have had a case of mondegreen. The only antidote is to be crystal clear in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Otherwise, two tiny keyholes won’t know Bo on a sleigh. And I would NOT lie about that!
- A miscellany of mondegreens (languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu)
- Oops… (lookingglasslanguage.com)
- Music Mondays and the Mystery of Mondegreens (edenbaylee.wordpress.com)