Lady Mondegreen is, in Fact, Alive


Several days ago, I noticed a conversation about “misheard song lyrics.”  Inevitably, the conversation landed squarely on “Blinded By The Light”   By Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.  Perhaps more than any other, I loathe that song.  But who doesn’t know it?  “Blinded by the light….revved up like a deuce…another runner in the night.”  Whatever.  While everyone knows intellectually those are the lyrics, everyone also knows that when he sings that song, it becomes “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche, another rubber in the night.”

Since then, I have found my thoughts on this topic quite a bit.  I had known there were entire websites dedicated to this phenomenon, but until I was researching this, I was clueless to how many there actually were. I also learned there was an actual word for this, “Mondegreen

A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. It most commonly is applied to a line in a poem or a lyric in a song. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954.

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen.”

The actual words of the ballad are:

Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands,
O where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl of Moray,
And hae laid him on the green

Personally, I do not mishear lyrics very often.  I think partly because I have an ear for it and partly because I’m OCD enough to listen to the line in question as many times as needs be in order to figure out what is being sung.  My problem is that once I hear a ‘wrong’ lyric, I tend to adopt the wrong one.  And yet again, did you know? Because I did not, there is a word for that as well!  A “malapropism.”

I remember walking home from elementary school one day.  I was in fourth grade and the big group of us that lived on the same street were just casually meandering down the big hill that was the crazy huge “yard” of the school.  Very clearly, I recall having an incredibly serious discussion with someone about whether I should commence carrying  a comb in my back pocket.  “Would that be bitchin’? ”   I had my violin with me and I remember one of the boys approaching from the other side and interrupting my conversation. I stress that he came from the other side because this was before I had learned to be protective of my violin and I thought nothing in those early days of brandishing it as a weapon.  I don’t remember the beginning of that exchange but I feel it was along the lines of  “Do you not see me having a conversation? GO AWAY, STUPID BOY” (and probably swinging my violin back).  He left and was walking along a bit in front of me.  I guess since he found himself “alone” , he started singing to himself.

“Careless Whispers” by Wham was what he was singing.  And he meant *every* word.   He sang “I’m never going to dance again~  curse these feet, I’ve got no rhythm”  instead of  “I’m never going to dance again~ guilty feet have got no rhythm”   To this day, even though I *know* what the words actually are, his words are the lyrics for me.  Period.


One last little aside that I had to get down:  While I was bouncing around on sites, I saw this lyric mistake:  REM’s “Losing My Religion”  “Let’s pee in the corner~Let’s pee in the spotlight”   Fuckin’ Brilliant!



~ by Layla on May 25, 2012.

One Response to “Lady Mondegreen is, in Fact, Alive”

  1. Kate Bush’s Babooshka ? I thought at first that was a song about a woman in labour:

    “I pushed and I pushed and I pushed, eyaayyaaaa!”


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