The case of the one-ton tomato
the ants are our friends
Mark Raboo speaks of the moment when he wished the floor
had opened and swallowed him, and all because of some misheard lyrics.
The 24-year-old was jamming
with a rock band when a guitarist launched into the opening chords of The Who classic "I Can't Explain," and he joined in
"The real lyrics were 'A certain kind, can't explain'," says Raboo.
"But I misheard them as 'Been circumsized,
can't explain.' The laughter ended that cover pretty quickly..."
For Lisa -- her last name understandably remains under
wraps -- public death by ridicule occurred when she took the microphone at a karaoke party to celebrate her 20th birthday.
Her nemesis, in front of 250 guests, was Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."
The real lyrics ("Darling, you're so great/I
can't wait for you to operate") had always been understood by Lisa to be "Darling, you're so great/I can't wait for you to
"Hilarity ensued," Lisa recalls bleakly.
Mark and Lisa are casualties of something called a mondegreen:
when you mishear a lyric in a song and even if the words seem a bit daft or total nonsense, they simply stay in your head
and you always sing them that way.
Until now, mondegreens were obscure. They were a closet of private shame and humiliation
that few wished to open up to the world.
But the arena of Internet, with its mixture of openness and selective privacy,
has changed all that.
Mondegreens are now a tribal phenomenon, breeding numerous collectors' sites on the Internet where
victims, including Mark and Lisa (see below), register their self-mangled versions of pop lyrics and compare them, sometimes
with dismay, to what the true lyrics were.
There is even a popular book, "'Scuse Me, While I Kiss This Guy" (named after
a widely-misheard line in the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze" -- "'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky").
The book's compiler,
Gavin Edwards, has a treasure chest of mondegreens.
Remember the opening line to David Bowie's "Space Oddity"? Could it
really have been "Clown control to Mao Tse-tung"?
What about that raw song by punk group The Clash, "Rock the Casbah,"
misheard by some sad individual as "Rock the Catbox"? And The Eurythmics' "Sweet dreams are made of cheese"? Or that memorable
line in the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," when "The girl with colitis goes by"?
Then there is that Bob Dylan
protest song with the refrain, "The ants are our friends/They're blowin' in the wind," and the Cuban song "Guantanamera,"
which some mondegreen victim, presumably not a Spanish speaker, construed as "One-ton tomato."