The Wonderful World of Mondegreens

Lucy in disguise with diamonds...?

Ever hear music lyrics differently from what they actually are?
There’s a name for that.

We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of misheard lyrics. There’s the one about Santa’s other reindeer. You know: Olive. As in “Olive, the other reindeer,” misheard from “all of the other reindeer.” There’s the puzzling line “excuse me while I kiss this guy” in Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” The urge to plant one on a nearby fellow seems out of place because it is: Jimi really sang “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Remember the ELO hit “Blinded by the Light (written by Bruce Springsteen and also a hit for Manfred Mann)? Legions of people misheard the line “Revved up like a Deuce” and believed the song had something to do with a feminine hygiene product.

Quoting these misheard lyrics can be a fun party game. And now, we’re about to give you the means to take that game to the next level. Next time someone starts to tell you that God’s first name is Howard (“Howard be thy name,” rather than “hallowed be thy name”), you can confidently tell them that what they’re referring to is called a ‘Mondegreen.’

Back in 1954, American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her Harper’s Magazine essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen.” You can read the story here. Mondegreens encompass more than just misheard lyrics. A Mondegreen is any misheard phrase that’s interpreted as something sounding very similar. We mentioned one in our newsletter last month: the actual phrase said was “Ever been to Riyadh?” but the Mondegreen heard was “Ever been to rehab?”

Mondegreens are captioners’ nightmares, which is why we work very, very hard to avoid them. It just wouldn’t do for us to caption Joni Mitchell’s famous lyric “A gay pair of guys put up a parking lot” instead of the correct wording: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

We’ve written about the particular challenges of captioning music before. Refresh your memory:

Must-follow Rules for Captioning & Subtitling Music
Smells Like New Mayonnaise To Me

Now, speaking of party games… how about sharing some of your favourite Mondegreens on the Line 21 Facebook page?

Project Profile: Highway Thru Hell

Whether you’re a fan of big trucks, roadside problem solving, beautiful BC, or human stories, Highway Thru Hell is a documentary series you won’t want to miss. Featuring Jamie Davis Trucking based in Hope, BC, this series follows the adventures and mishaps that occur on the famous Coquihalla highway in BC’s interior. One to watch and thoroughly enjoyed by our captioning and scripting departments. Thanks to Great Pacific for being our clients!

Highway Thru Hell airs Tuesdays at 7 pm on Discovery Canada. Find them on Facebook.