Mondegreens (HLD 319)

5 Feb 2021

The term mondegreen thrust itself into my vision yesterday and I have been enjoying thinking about them.

Meaning ‘misheard lyrics’, the term was applied by an American author who recalled, as a child, mishearing a line from a Scottish poem. The lines should have read “They hae slain the Earl of Moray, and lain him on the greens”. As a child it made perfect sense for her that the poem said “they have slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen”. She recalled feeling sympathy for poor Lady Mondegreen who got caught up in the plot to kill Moray.

The best Mondegreens are the ones that make perfect sense to you. As Australians we know that AC/DC believed it to be a “Long way to the top if you wanna Rock’n’roll”, but we all, as a nation, collectively knew that it was “a long way to the shop if you wanna sausage roll”. Unless you lived over the road from the shop, in which case you wouldn’t have understood the song at all.

Some mondegreens are just as stupid as the original lyrics, however. Queens Bohemian Rhapsody’s lyrics “Spare him his life from this monstrosity”, can be easy replaced by misheard version “Spare him his life from his warm sausage tea”. Although, to be fair, warm sausage tea actually sounds like a monstrosity, so maybe the lyrics are actually interchangeable.

These are my favourite mondegreen’s:

Lucy in disguise – with glasses (Lucy in the sky with diamonds)

Sweet dreams are made of cheese (Sweet dreams are made of these)

It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not” (It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not)

Kicking your cat all over the place (kicking your can all over the place)

I remove umbilicals (I believe in miracles)

Like a virgin, touched for the thirty first time (or maybe the very first time!)

Cheap wine and cheese on toast (or a three day growth)

The ants are my friend, they’re blowing’ in the wind (the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind – along with the ants)

We don’t need no sex vacation (we don’t need no education)

There’s a wino down the road (as we wind on down the road)

Even our national anthem is prone to a bit of readjustment. The line, recently reworded (finally) – to “Australia’s all let us rejoice, for we are one and free”, is reportedly misheard as: “Australians all have ostriches, four minus one is three”, or even as “Australians all eat sausages for breakfast lunch and tea”.

Don’t you think sausages, or sausage rolls, are appearing quite frequently in these mondegreens???

Possibly because: “We built this city on sausage rolls” (We built this city on rock’n’roll).

Have you got either a song lyric or a poem you misquote either accidentally or with glee?

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