Your Favorite Mondegreens

A mondegreen is what happens when you mishear or misinterpret a phrase, specifically a song lyric. The term comes from Sylvia Wright, who thought an old Scottish ballad said “And Lady Mondegreen” instead of “And laid him on the green.” Some of the most well-know mondegreens are “Wrapped up like a douche” from “Blinded by the Light” (actual line: “Revved up like a deuce”) and “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” from “Purple Haze” (actual line: “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”). Mondegreens fascinate me because it’s another example of how our memories aren’t always reliable, like the Mandella Effect (no, seriously, I was pissed when I found out the Berenstain Bears weren’t Jewish).

Today I thought we should take a brief break from the dumpster fire that is the Trump administration, and talk about some of our favorite mondegreens. I’ll start with mine:

1). “Arthur’s Theme” by Christopher Cross. I used to watch that movie all the time when I was a kid, and I was convinced Cross was singing “If you get drunk between the moon and New York City.” It makes sense since the movie is about an alcoholic, right? Nope! Turns out he’s singing, “If you get caught between the moon and New York City.” I like my version better.

2). “Paris (Ooh La La)” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Now this is a bizarre one because I used to think she was singing “If I was a maid, I’d save your spoon.” Dafuq is that supposed to mean? Fortunately, she’s actually singing, “If I was a blade, I’d shave you smooth.” Which is why this song always gets stuck in my head when I shave.

3). “Kid Charlemagne” by Steely Dan. Okay, this one is pretty controversial. For years I thought they were singing, “All those dago freaks who used to paint their face, they’ve joined the human race.” I was like, “Did this motherfucker just call me a dago?” Fortunately that’s not the case; they’re actually singing, “All those day-glo freaks who used to to paint their face.” Phew, for a moment I thought Donald Fagen was a racist!

4). “Jump” by Van Halen. Here’s another funny one; I used to think David Lee Roth was saying, “I eat the worst chips you’ve seen.” You would think Roth would be able to afford better quality chips, right? Turns out he’s actually singing, “I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen.” Ah, much better!

So what are some of your funniest or most embarrassing mondegreens?


  1. says

    I once did an one of my silly radio essays on the topic. To enlarge on your derivation:

    “…an interesting phenomenon: one which was first brought to my attention as a interesting phenomenon, rather than an excuse to “Tut! Tut!” about stupid listeners, in an essay by Sylvia Wright. It seems that, some time before she wrote of it in 1954, Mistress Wright had misheard a couplet from that wonderful old ballad from Percy’s Reliques ‘The Bonnie Earl o’ Murray’ as “They have slain the Earl Amurray and Lady Mondegreen” (presumably one of the Edinburgh Mondegreens, an ancient and otherwise completely respectable lowland family)—but alas for poor Lady Mondegreen, not only was she slain but, to add existentialism to injury, she never was pre-slain in the first place, being no more than a misconstual of “And laid him on the green” giving the unfortunate earl a much more lonely and less romantic end: however in consolation she did give birth to the term ‘mondegreen’ for such mishearings….”

  2. says

    Not me, but my ex used to insist that the lyrics of Alanis Morissette’s song “You Oughta Know” were “It’s not fair to deny me
    of the cross-eyed bear that you gave to me.” Having been raised Catholic, I recognized that it was “cross I bear”.

  3. coragyps says

    Gladly, the cross-eyed bear is apparently the subject of a nice protestant hymn. And Round John Virgin was in a popular Christmas carol, and was, I guess, tender and mild. Maybe kind of like an elk steak, I suppose.

  4. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    When I was a wee lad, I thought the first line of Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” was “Last night I dreamt of some bagels.”

  5. says

    “Hold my breath as I wait for Jeff” (Hold my breath as I wait for death) — “One”

    “Buried in a neighbor’s grave.” (Buried in a nameless grave.) — “Bark at the Moon”

    Personal favorite: “Loving an alligator” (Love in an elevator)

  6. says

    my dude: “I love it when you call me Li’l Cotton Puff” – Biggie Smalls, “Big Poppa”
    me: “Dead kids all over the ground, best get some heavy rest” – (in that case I’ll go underground) Van Morrison’s “Domino”

  7. says

    “Number Of The Beast”
    Misheard Lyrics: “Reflections of my woman staring back at me.”
    Original Lyrics: “Reflections of my warped mind staring back at me.”

    And I just remembered one I experienced last week. I misheard “P-p-p-p-poker face” as “F-f-f-f-fuck her face”.

  8. says

    I was distracted when I posted this and forgot to mention the reason I commented at all. I have a mondegreen that involves the word “dago” and “la isla bonita.” Is that song called “spanish lullaby” actually? Anyhow, I used to think it sounded like “Last night I dreamt of some dago.”

  9. chris_devries says

    My very favourite, I discovered in my late teens, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, let alone that it would be on the radio, which I was listening to in the car with my father. I almost died of embarrassment. Of course, I misheard, but I still laugh when I hear the song: Harlequin’s Innocence.

    The line goes:

    Innocence, yes that’s all you ever pleaded

    I misheard:

    Anal sex, yes that’s all you ever needed

    Listen to the song, I GUARANTEE you’ll see what I mean and never be able to listen to it without blushing. Every time they sing “Innocence” it sounds quite a bit like “Anal sex”.

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