We’ve all misheard song lyrics from time to time – but rest assured, it might have nothing to do with your hearing!
It’s something everyone has experienced, so much so that the particular phenomenon has its own name: Mondegreen.
Appropriately enough, the name itself is a misheard lyric. And comes from an anecdote told by American author Sylvia Wright who, as a girl misheard the lyrics to the Scottish folk song The Bonnie Earl of Moray which opens like this:
Ye Hielan’s an’ ye Lowlan’s
O, where have ye been?
They hae slain the Earl of Moray
And lain him on the green.
Now whether it can be blamed on the Scottish accent or not, will forever be a matter of contention, but for many years Ms Wright thought the lyric And lain him on the green was actually Lady Mondegreen.
She shared the tale in Harper’s magazine in 1954 and the word was coined.
“The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.”
That might be debatable but they certainly can be amusing.
Funny, I never heard that!
A few years back, hearing aid manufacturer Starkey conducted a survey of UK clients over the most popular misheard lyrics.
The winner was 1980s pop duo Eurythmics with people mishearing “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” as “Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese”.
And more recently it spawned a meme which made all cheese lovers rejoice.
Australian artists are not immune. No one could blame you for not being able to understand James Reyne from Australian Crawl whose odd diction makes deciphering his lyrics hours of fun.
Why do we mishear lyrics?
There are two key reasons why:
- Speech in noise difficulties
Homophones, words that sound alike but have different meanings, are a ready source of confusion especially when syllables and emphasis is altered to fit the meter of the song.
The other is speech in noise – which could be another way of describing lyrics and music.
The importance of speech in noise testing
Clearly hearing the lyrics to our favourite songs can be difficult over a thumping bass line or wailing guitar, but if you’re finding it increasingly difficult enjoy your favourite music, then you may wish to consider having a hearing test that includes a speech in noise component.
Not every audiologist offers this as part of their service, but here at Value Hearing, we think it is an essential component of a comprehensive review of your hearing.
So what are your most amusing misheard lyrics? Let us know in comments below!
In the meantime, we’ll leave the last word to Elvis:
Wise men say only fools rub shins…