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  1. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #1

    Misheard lyrics

    Usually I find songs a bit harder to follow word-for-word than the news programmes or day-to-day talk (perhaps because TV usually has a lot more context than the more poetic lyrics).

    What is surprising though, is that there can be up to five (!) interpretations of the same song lyrics on the Web, which made me think that some ambiguous bits sometimes remain unclear even to the native speakers!
    Later on, I saw that there are actually entire websites dedicated to misheard lyrics.

    I find this all quite interesting, because in my language we seem to be completely without this phenomenon of mishearing the words. It's unlikely that you will confuse the words with each other, unless you are a kid or you really don't know or never heard of the word before.

    So, the question is, is it really that common in English as it seems to be? Does that happen to you? If so, how often?

    I'd like to hear your opinions.

    Thanks!

    P.S. Non-English speakers, please chime in -- I'd also love to hear whether something similar exists or not in your languages (I hope moderators wouldn't call it ‘the great off-topic’).

    P.P.S I’m only talking about the possible mishearing/misinterpretation of the songs that aren’t riddled with opaque ‘gangsta’ or whatever incomprehensible slang and DO make sense.

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    #2

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    Quote Originally Posted by IHIVG View Post
    P.S. Non-English speakers, please chime in -- I'd also love to hear whether something similar exists or not in your languages (I hope moderators wouldn't call it ‘the great off-topic’).
    I find a little bit surprising what you say about Russian (again!). In Polish, it happens that words of a song are incomprehensible. I used to fight aginst my friends over some of them when I was a kid (well, I still am - a younger kid ).

    But there's certainly less of it here than in English. Perhaps that we don't have so many accents and dialects is the reason.

  2. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    Quote Originally Posted by mmasny View Post
    I find a little bit surprising what you say about Russian (again!). In Polish, it happens that words of a song are incomprehensible. I used to fight aginst my friends over some of them when I was a kid (well, I still am - a younger kid ).
    I'm not talking about kids, mmasny! And you are clearly not one.
    So, you do still struggle catching the words in Polish songs?
    I think that very seldom happens to me in my language.

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    #4

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    Quote Originally Posted by IHIVG View Post
    I'm not talking about kids, mmasny! And you are clearly not one.
    So, you do still struggle catching the words in Polish songs?
    I think that very seldom happens to me in my language.
    Yes, I do! Sometimes. And I know I'm not the only one. These singers today...

  3. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    So this has more to do with singers rather than with the language itself?
    I mean, would you understand what they meant to say if you were, for example, to see these lyrics on the 'net? Would it make any difference?

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    The 2 which spring to mind most readily for me, in English songs are:

    So Lonely by The Police. Apparently, some people thought it was a song about Sue Lawley, who was a BBC newsreader at the time.

    Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. In the middle section, there is a line which says "Spare him his life from this monstrosity". This was frequently heard as "Spare him his life from these pork sausages"!

    One of my friends also told me that when she was a child listening to Chiquitita by Abba, she thought that every time they sang the name Chiquitita, they were in fact singing "Take your teeth out".

  5. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    You bet. See this article: Mondegreen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It's been going on for a very long time, as yo can see.

    One of the first things my husband ever gave me was a cartoon book of illustrated misheard lyrics. "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" as "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" or "There's a bad moon on the rise" as "There's the bathroom on the right."

    My own misinterpretation -- I knew it couldn't' be right, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it should be -- that has caused the most laughs was instead of "I ain't no holler back girl" I heard "I ain't on Hall of Fat girl." I couldn't guess what a "Hall of Fat girl" was, but I still don't know what a "holler back girl" is.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    I think I figured out what might be the cause of this ambiguity -- I'll blame short English words that tend to sound like one another.

    Hilarious language, this English is!

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    #9

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    Quote Originally Posted by IHIVG View Post
    So this has more to do with singers rather than with the language itself?
    I mean, would you understand what they meant to say if you were, for example, to see these lyrics on the 'net? Would it make any difference?
    In some cases it would, but not always. There are different problems. One is unclear pronunciation, which can cause Polish counterparts of the examples above. I sometimes hear almost nonsensical phrases, which are however grammatical enough for me to accept them as meant. Sometimes I can come up with comething logical after a while of thinking, sometimes I can't.

    Another problem is that many songs are simply incomprehensible themselves, even after writing them down. It makes me stop trying to understand what I don't. So even when a song could make sense, I simply have no heart to search for it.

  7. IHIVG's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: Misheard lyrics

    Did you try to polish up your Polish?

    But no, seriously, I sometimes joke around that I learn foreign languages and try to be as good at them as I can (I'm an inveterate insatiable language gormandizer), yet there are some rare words in my own that I occasionally stumble upon and don't really have a clear idea of what they mean, and thus, should get back and to study Russian first.

    But I swear, I can't remember the last time I misinterpreted the words that I actually knew (maybe it used to be so in childhood though).

    Is there any chance of mishearing the phrases in TV, movies, etc?

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