The Joy of Garbled Comprehension

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I have a habit of mishearing song lyrics in usually pathetic ways. It took at least a decade before I heard Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” correctly, in lieu of my own version: “Like a twister I was born to walk alone.” Hell, I came from tornado country, and it made absolute sense; when would a twister really be able to get on well with others? My friends’ continuing favorite is the version of “Winter Wonderland” I had in my head until my mid-thirties; for my entire life up until that point, I truly believed I was hearing, “In the middle we can build a snowman/and pretend that he is sparse and brown.” It was a revelation when I realized, upon hearing the cloying song while on the treadmill at the gym, that the real lyrics were “In the meadow we can build a snowman/and pretend that he is Parson Brown.” Curiously enough, I had always been more prone to wonder, “In the middle of what?” than “Why a sparse and brown snowman?”

He's not sparse, but he is brown.

He’s not sparse, but he is brown.

But today, my holiday tradition of bad substitutions continued when I walked through a burst of Eartha Kitt*, one of my favorite bad-asses, singing “Santa Baby.” Back at the office, I found I’d turned her entreaty to the fat man to “sign your X on the line” to a demand to “put your ass on the line.” What would it mean for Santa to do such a thing– and for whom? I can’t imagine the suited sleigh driver taking a bullet for Dasher or Dancer, or risking his career for a once-in-a-lifetime deal on elf hats. Still, I enjoy picturing that demand being made, and Santa stumbling about trying to figure out what to do in the face of the coolest chick ever to have graced his polar palace.

Upon relating what was going on in my head to a co-worker, he told me his wife went about for years singing Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night” as “I wanna rock and roll all night/and part of every day.” I love it: the crazy band celebrating its love of licentiousness and wanton behavior– but only to a certain degree, because really: too much is just too much.

And on those joyful, yet erroneous notes, I’ll retire for the night. Happy mangled singing, all!


* Said occurrence had me coming home and listening to the chanteuse– and I found it very apropos of yesterday’s post to hear her singing silkily, in “Let’s Misbehave,” “If you want a future, darling, why don’t you get a past?”



  1. birds fly

    LOL about the “sparse and brown” snowman.

    The one misheard lyric that (unfortunately) always sticks in my head is from the song “Blinded by the Light”. What I didn’t realize until just now when I looked it up is that Manfred Mann changed the original Springsteen lyric from “cut loose like a deuce” to “revved up like a deuce.” I’ve always heard this and the next line “another runner in the night” as “wrapped up like a papoose by my mother in the night.” I thought that was weird enough, but the Wikipedia entry reports that so many people hear the first part as “wrapped up like a douche” that Springsteen himself has reportedly joked that it wasn’t until Mann rewrote the song to be about a feminine hygiene product that it became popular. Springsteen has also said he used a rhyming dictionary to write the lyrics, which explains their overall bizarre nature.


    • Special K

      Yeah, I’d always heard “wrapped up like a douche,” too; when I finally realized the much more logical, true phrase, I kicked myself for never having stopped to think about what would have made more sense in the context of the song. Our poor brains…


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