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What are Mondegreens?

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What are Mondegreens?

Mondegreens are misheard song lyrics. A fuller explanation of the meaning of the word mondegreen is best shown by retelling how it originated...

The American writer Sylvia Wright frequently wrote for Harper's Bazaar. In November 1954 she wrote an article for the magazine explaining a misinterpretation of a song lyric, which she had made in her youth:

"When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

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 ‘The Bonny Earl of Murray’ are:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl o' Moray
And layd him on the green.

Of course, by the time she had written the article Wright had realised her mistake but, being a creative writer, she went onto coin a term for that form of error:

"The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original."

The term mondegreen has now been widely adopted to mean 'misheard lyric'. Many of them sadly don't meet Wright's 'better than the original' criteria. Here are a few examples which I think do:

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy (Meaning/Origin)
Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard (Meaning/Origin)
Killed in a bar when he was only three (Meaning/Origin)
Olive the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names (Meaning/Origin)
The ants are my friends, they're blowing in the wind (Meaning/Origin)
The girl with colitis goes by (Meaning/Origin)
There's a bathroom on the right (Meaning/Origin)

... and here's a longer list:

Mondegreen
Original lyric
Song
Writer/singer
A new religion that'll bring you to your knees, like Velveeta Cheese.
A new religion that'll bring you to your knees, Black velvet if you please.
Black Velvet
Allanah Myles
A weenie wack a weenie wack a weenie wack.
Wee-ooh wim-o-weh. Wee-ooh wim-o-weh.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Tokens
A year has passed since I broke my nose
A year has passed since I wrote my note
Message in a Bottle
The Police
After the poison summer has gone
After the boys of summer have gone
Boys of Summer
Don Henley
All my luggage, I will send to you.
All my loving, I will send to you.
Beatles
All the boys think she's a spaz
All the boys think she's a spy
Bette Davis Eyes
Kim Carnes
And there's a wino down the road - I should have stolen Oreos
And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls
Stairway to Heaven
Led Zeppelin
Are you going to starve an old friend?
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
 
Simon & Garfunkel
Baby come back, you can play Monopoly.
Baby come back, you can blame it all on me.
Baby Come Back
Player
Baking carrot biscuits.
Taking care of business.
Takin Care Of Business
Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Bald headed woman.
More than a woman.
 
Bee Gees
B-b-b-Betty in a dress
B-b-b-Bennie and the Jets
Bennie and the Jets
Elton John
Big girl, small fry.
Big girls don't cry.
 
The Four Seasons
Big Old Jed had a light on
Big old jet airliner
Jet Airliner
The Steve Miller Band
Blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop-tart
Blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop-top
Margaritaville
Jimmy Buffett
Bringing in the sheets.
Bringing in the sheaves.
 
Hymn
Carryin' beans, now we're sharin' the same jeans.
Carribean Queen, now we're sharing the same dreams.
Billy Ocean
Changes come around real soon; naked swimming in bed
Changes come around real soon, make us women and men
Jack and Diane
John Cougar
Climb every mountain.
I'm every woman.
Whitney Houston
Come and let me tell you 'bout my bed spread.
People let me tell you 'bout my best friend.
Courtship of Eddie's Father
Theme from the TV Show,
Come shave my heart.
Unchain my heart.
Ray Charles
Dirty deeds and the thunder chiefs OR Dirty deeds done to sheep.
Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap.
 
ACDC
Do a little dance, make a little rum, Italian Ice! Italian Ice!
Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight, get down tonight.
Do A Little Dance
KC & The Sunshine Band
Do the lucky lady.
Dude looks like a lady.
Aerosmith
Don't you know you've got two chocolate monkeys?
Don't you know you've got to shock the monkey
Shock the Monkey
Peter Gabriel
Donuts make my brown eyes blue.
Don't it make my brown eyes blue.
 
Crystal Gale
Doughnuts make my brown eyes blue
Don't it make my brown eyes blue
Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
Crystal Gayle
Every time you go away you take a piece of meat with you
Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you
Every Time You Go Away
Paul Young
Everybody in a wholesale frock
Everybody in the whole cell block
Jailhouse Rock
Elvis Presley
Everybody's crazy 'bout a shot glass man
Everybody's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed man
Sharp-Dressed Man
ZZ Top
Four-legged woman.
More than a woman.
Bee Gees
Ghost man so close to me.
Don't stand so close to me.
The Police
Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul.
Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul.
Drift Away
Dobie Gray
Goin' to the Jack-O-Lantern, gonna get married.
Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married.
Chapel of Love
Dixie Cups,
Gonna dress you up in nylons
Gonna dress you up in my love
Dress You Up
Madonna
Good-bye yellow brick road. There's a dark cloud inside of the house.
So goodbye yellow brick road. Where the dogs of society howl.
 
Elton John
Got a lot of lucky peanuts.
Got a lot of love between us.
 
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Ham on rye.
I'm alright.
 
Kenny Loggins
Hang on stupid.
Hang on, Sloopy.
 
The McCoys
Happy as a rafter in the market place.
Happy ever after in the market place.
Ob la di
Beatles
Her heavy head turned to ice cream, being the one
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one
Billie Jean
Michael Jackson
His car has four-wheel drive
His car is warm and dry
Don't Stand So Close to Me
The Police
Hit me with your pet shark
Hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Pat Benatar
Hold me closer, Tony Danza
Hold me closer tiny dancer
Tiny Dancer
Elton John
Home, where my love lies waiting, Simon, weep for me.
Home, where my love lies waiting, silently for me.
Homeward Bound
Simon & Garfunkel
Hope the city voted for you.
Hopelessly devoted to you.
 
Grease sound track
How's about a date?
Eyes without a face.
Eyes Without a Face
Billy Idol
I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all life's fickles in the way
I can see clearly now the rain has gone. I can see all obstacles in my way.
 
Jimmy Cliff
I can see those spider veins
I can see those fighter planes
Bullet the Blue Sky
U2
I can't climb this ceiling any more.
I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I can't fight this feeling
REO Speedwagon
I could not believe we ever got forty cents
I could not believe we'd ever die for these sins
Freshmen
Verve Pipe
I get locked out, so I go out again
I get knocked down, but I get up again
Tubthumping
Chumbawumba
I really don't like him... Doctor Cashpot, Doctor Cashpot
Sharif don't like it - rock the casbah, rock the casbah
Rock the Casbah
The Clash
I shot the Sheriff, but I didn't shoot him dead you see.
I shot the Sheriff, but I didn't shoot the deputy.
 
Bob Marley
I sometimes wish I'd never been boiled in oil
Sometimes wish I'd never been born at all
Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen
I supply the face
Eyes without a face
Eyes Without a Face
Billy Idol
I wanna die!
Oh, what a night!
Oh What a Night
The Four Seasons
I wanna know. Have you ever seen Loraine?
I wanna know. Have you ever seen the rain?
 
Creedence Clearwater Revival
I want a new truck.
I want a new drug.
 
Huey Lewis & the News
I want a piece of bacon
I wanna be sedated
I Wanna Be Sedated
The Ramones
I was so mad!
I'm a soul man.
 
Blues Brothers
I wonder, wonder, who, who rode the moo-cow now?
I wonder, wonder, who, who wrote the book of love?
Book of Love
The Monotones
If she would have been paid for
If she would have been faithful
If She Would Have Been Faithful
Chicago
I'll give you diamond Sprite!
I'll give you diamonds bright.
For Your Love
The Yardbirds
I'll never leave your pizza burning.
I'll never be your beast of burden.
 
Rolling Stones
I'm 264 my shirt, 264 my shirt.
I'm too sexy for my shirt too sexy for my shirt.
I'm Too Sexy
Right Said Fred
I'm a pool hall ace.
My poor heart aches.
Every Step You Take
The Police
I'm an educated fool with my knee on my mind
I'm an educated fool with money on my mind
Gangsta's Paradise
Coolio
I'm just a squirrel.
I'm just a girl.
 
No Doubt
I'm not talkin' bout religion
I'm not talkin' 'bout movin' in
I'd Really Love to See You Tonight
England Dan and John Ford Cowley
I'm not talking 'bout Bolivia.
I'm not talking 'bout moving in.
Really Love to See You Tonight
John Ford Collie
I'm standing in the middle of life with my pants behind me
I'm standing in the middle of life with my pains behind me
Middle of the Road
Pretenders
I'm the god of Velveeta, honey.
In the garden of Eden, honey.
 
Iron Butterfly
It's like I told you, only the lonely get laid
It's like I told you, only the lonely can play
Only the Lonely
The Motels
I've been haulin' ass so long.
I've been holding out so long.
Miss You
Rolling Stones
I've got a backache from loving you
I've got a bad case of loving you
Loving You
Robert Palmer
I've got a new pair of shoes.
I've got a new attitude.
 
Patti LaBelle
I've got two chickens with parrot eyes!
I've got two tickets to paradise
Two Tickets to Paradise
Eddie Money
Jay, Jay, Jay; Jay you're cool
Chain, chain, chain, chain of fools.
Chain of Fools
Aretha Franklin
Jeremy's smokin' crack today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy
Pearl Jam
Jim Dandy ate the red stew
Jim Dandy to the rescue.
Black Oak Arkansas
Jose can you see?
O, Say can you see?
The Star Spangled Banner
Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby.
Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.
Angel of the Morning
Juice Newton
Just like a one-winged dove.
Just like a white winged dove.
 
Stevie Nicks
Knee deep in doughnuts, children at your feet.
Lady Madonna, children at your feet.
 
The Beatles
Last night I dreamt of some bagels
Last night I dreamt of San Pedro
La Isla Bonita
Madonna
Let Milo open the door.
Let my love open the door.
 
Pete Townsend, The Who
Life ain't nothing but a seven dollar fiddle.
Life ain't nothing but a funny funny riddle.
 
John Denver
Life in the Vaseline.
Life in the fast lane.
 
Eagles
Look into my butterflies.
Look into my father's eyes.
My Father's Eyes
Eric Clapton,
Looks like tomatoes
Looks like we made it.
 
Barry Manilow
Love is a big, fat quivering slug.
Love is a big, fat river in flood.
Love Is Stronger Than Justice
Sting
Makin' carrot biscuits
Taking Care of Business
Taking Care of Business
Bachman Turner Overdrive
Maybe I'll play cards and be as fast as you.
Maybe I'll break hearts and be as fast as you.
 
Dwight Yokum
Medieval woman OR He is a woman
Evil woman
Evil Woman
ELO
Michelle, ma belle, Sunday monkey play no piano song, no piano song.
Michelle, ma belle, Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, Tres bien ensemble.
 
The Beatles
My woman is Okay-O.
My woman from Tokyo.
Woman From Tokyo
Deep Purple
No dogs orgasm in the classroom OR No Dukes of Hazzard in the classroom
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Another Brick in the Wall
Pink Floyd
Oh my darling lemon pie.
Oh my darling, Clementine.
 
traditional song
Only the good Tyrone.
Only the good die young.
 
Billy Joel
Pay for my Chrysler.
Paperback writer.
 
Beatles
Pick out Jed from the line-up.
Big old jet airliner.
 
Steve Miller Band
Please relieve me - let me go.
Please release me, let me go.
 
Englebert Humperdinck
Police have a dog
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Navidad
Jose Feliciano
Pretty Woman, won't you lick my leg.
Pretty Woman, won't you look my way.
 
Roy Orbison
Red, red wine, steak, lobster meat.
Red, red wine, stay close to me.
 
UB-40
Return da Zenda.
Return to sender.
 
Elvis Presley
Reverend blue jeans
Forever in blue jeans
Forever in Blue Jeans
Neil Diamond
Rocket man, burning all the trees off every lawn
Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone
Rocket Man
Elton John
Running With my billfold
Running With the Devil
Running With the Devil
Van Halen
Searching for my lost singer from Mars.
Searching for my last shaker of salt.
Margaritaville
Jimmy Buffett
Secret Asian man
Secret agent man
Secret Agent Man
Johnny Rivers
Selsun blue
Song sung blue
Song Sung Blue
Neil Diamond
She loved Cheez-Its, and America too.
She loved Jesus, and America too.
Free Fallin
Tom Petty,
She's got a chicken to ride OR She's got a tic in her eye
She's got a ticket to ride.
 
Beatles
She's got better days, besides!
She's got Bette Davis eyes
Kim Carnes
She's got electric boobs, a mohair too.
She's got electric boots, a mohair suit.
Benny and the Jets
Elton John
Since she left me there've been owls pukin' in my bed.
Since she put me down I've been out doin' in my head.
Help Me Rhonda
Beach Boys
Sing in the light, sing in the light.
Stayin' Alive, Stayin' alive.
 
Bee Gees
Slow walking Walter, the fire engine guy OR Snow covered horses.
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the Water
Deep Purple
Stand on the rug.
Band on the run.
 
Wings
Starin' at my momma's corpse, the summer'd seem to last forever
Standing on my momma's porch, the summer'd seem to last forever
Summer of '69
Bryan Adams
Stick your head in lotion.
I second that emotion.
I Second That Emotion
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Straight arm, straight arm for you.
Straight on, straight on for you.
Heart
Stretch my dick OR strain my dick
Strange magic
Strange Magic
ELO
Strolling stuntman
Stroke me, stroke me
The Stroke
Billy Squier
Stuffing my face with his fingers
Strumming my fate with his fingers
Killing Me Softly
Roberta Flack
Sugar fried honey butt.
Sugar pie, honey bunch.
Can't Help Myself
Four Tops
Sweet dreams are made of cheese.
Sweet dreams are made of this.
 
The Eurythmics
Sweet tell a lie.
Sweet Caroline.
 
Neil Diamond
Take the back right turn.
Paperback writer.
 
Beatles
Take your pants down, and make it happen
Take your passion and make it happen
Flashdance
Irene Cara
Tape it to a biscuit.
Taking care of business.
Takin Care Of Business
Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Tattoo detective!
Try to detect it!
Whip It
Devo
The bride bless the day, the dogs say goodnight.
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
 
Louis Armstrong
The heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland.
The heart of rock and roll is still beating.
 
Huey Lewis and the News
Then I saw her face, now I'm gonna leave her.
Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer.
 
The Monkees
Through the night, with the light from a bulb.
Through the night, with the light from above.
God Bless America
Irving Berlin
Warm smell of policemen rising up through the air OR warm smell of collegiates rising up through the air
Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air
Hotel California
Eagles
We are living in a Cheerio world, and I am a Cheerio girl
We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl
Material Girl
Madonna
Went to a dance, lookin' for a man, saw Barbara Ann so I thought I'd take a chance.
Went to a dance, lookin' for romance, saw Barbara Ann so I thought I'd take a chance.
Barbara Ann
The Beach Boys
When the rainbow shaves you clean, you'll know
When the rain washes you clean you'll know
Dreams
Fleetwood Mac
Where is my jonbenet; where is my prairie dog?
Where is my John Wayne; where is my Prairie Son?
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone
Paula Cole
Won't you be my bald-headed woman? I want to be your bald-headed man OR Won't you be my four-level woman? I want to be your four-level man
Won't you be my forever woman? I want to be your forever man
Forever Man
Eric Clapton
Wrapped up like a douche, you know the rumour in the night
Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night
Blinded By the Light
Manfred Mann's Earth Band
You and me and Leslie.
You and me endlessly.
Groovin
The Young Rascals
You hardly talk to me anymore, when I Kung Fu the door at the end of the day
You hardly talk to me anymore, when I come through the door at the end of the day
You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Neil Diamond
You have lost your gum forever dreadful sorry, Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever dreadful sorry, Clementine.
 
Traditional song
You made the rice, I made the gravy.
You may be right, I may be crazy.
 
Billy Joel
You make me eat... but I’m on a diet!
You make me weak, I'm gonna die
Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'
Journey
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, four hundred children and a crop in the field.
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, four hungry children and a crop in the field.
Lucille
Kenny Rogers
You've got mud on your face, front disc brakes
You've got mud on your face, a big disgrace
We Will Rock You
Queen

Mondegreens...and, as you've got this far, please forgive this image. A parody rather than a mondegreen but quite fun.