Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Mondegreens and Other Lyrical Thoughts

If you've managed to grit your teeth and stick it out with me for any length of time, you know that I love language in all its various permutations and combinations, and especially puns and other word-based humor. One of the interesting things you can do with language is create mondegreens, or song lyrics that have been (often bizarrely) misunderstood. One of the classic mondegreens is "there's a bathroom on the right" ... which, in the original song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, actually read "...there's a bad moon on the rise."

For the fast-approaching holiday season, here's a collection of mondegreens from popular Christmas songs ...

"Deck the halls with Buddy Holly;"

"We three kings of porridge and tar;"

"On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me;"

"Later on we'll perspire, as we dream by the fire;"

"He's makin' a list, chicken and rice;"

"Noel, Noel - Barney's the king of Israel;"

"With the jelly toast proclaim;"

"Olive, the other reindeer;"

"Frosty the Snowman is a ferret elf, they say;"

"Sleep in heavenly peas;"

"In the meadow we can build a snowman, Then pretend that he is sparse and brown;"

"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in listerine;"

"Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay;"

"O come, froggy faithful;"

"You'll tell Carol, 'Be a skunk, I require'."

On a somewhat related topic, consider the song Frosty the Snowman and the lyric quoted above. You may have noted over the years that there are two versions of the song "Frosty the Snowman." One version (which, I think, was the original) contains the lines

In the meadow, we can build a snowman

And pretend that he's is Parson Brown.

He'll say, "Are you married?", we'll say, "No, man,"

"But you can do the job when you're in town."

In the other version, that same section reads,

In the meadow we can build a snowman

And pretend that he's a circus clown.

We'll have lots of fun with Mr Snowman

Until the other children knock him down."

Why do we have two versions of the song? I believe - without evidence, but with strong suspicion - that the Parson Brown version was frowned upon by rigidly upright religious types who didn't think it was appropriate for young people singing Christmas songs to think about things that related (however tangentially) to ... gasp! ... sex.

There's a similar change of lyrics in Jimmy Buffet's song Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes ... the original song contains the line ...

Good times and riches and son-of-a-bitches,

I've seen more than I can recall.

... which morphs in another version into

Good times and riches, some brooms and some switches,

I've seen more than I can recall.

For the record, I think the original is the one that makes sense, but I suspect that the use of the term son-of-a-bitches was too much for the tender ears of some listeners.

And now, lest I impose too much on your tender ears ... and eyes ... I'll take Nessa for a walk and head off to work.

Have a good day. Post your favorite mondegreens in the comments. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

These montegreens are like Spoonerisms. Great Yule ones. But this is the first I've heard of the Jimmy Buffet song revision: have parrotheads become more squeamish?

Mike said...

In the Aerosmith song 'Dude', I always thought the catch line was 'Do the lucky lady'. What a revelation to find out different.

I think they should make a new song with my lyrics.

Duckbutt said...

Dave Barry gave a great misheard lyric: "Since she put me down ther's been owls puking in my bed." The Beach Boys, Help Me Rhonda.