Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mondegreen mania

I get such a kick out of misheard song lyrics, otherwise known as mondegreens. I remember years ago when I picked up Gavin Edwards Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy when I was out of town on business. I went back to my hotel room and laughed until tears streamed down my face while the misinterpretations became more ridiculous, but still plausible, as I turned the pages. The accompanying illustrations only added to my mirth. It is the hardest I have ever laughed without someone else present in the room. I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out, which there were three others. Occasionally, I check the humor section of bookstores, hoping to find a fifth installment in the series. Sadly, Mr. Edwards either tired of the concept, or ran out of material. Nonsense, I say! 

In lieu of that, I will reminisce on a few of my own, as well as ones Mr. Pedant accumulated over the years. I displayed them in the same format as in the books: misheard lyric; performer; song title; correct lyric. 

The wreck of Ella Fitzgerald
Gordon Lightfoot “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald”
The wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald 

What can I say? The queen of scat was the only E. Fitzgerald I knew of when I was a teen. I even had the piano sheet music of the classic folk tune, but for whatever reason, my mind chose to interpret and remember it within the context of its existing knowledge, and stay that way well into adulthood. Good excuse, eh? Years later, I saw part of a documentary about the famous freighter, and the twenty-nine lives that were taken down with it. Hmm, I guess that makes more sense. At least, more than a wrecking ball swinging toward Ella as she breaks glass when she hits her high note. Ah, the warped logic of youth. 

Hey old lady you’re gonna die!
Patty LaBelle “Creole Lady Marmalade”
Creole lady marmalade! 

Really, what is a more logical exclamation, I ask ye? 

I scream my balls off
No Doubt “Spider Webs”
I screen my phone calls 

I actually developed a dislike of this song because I thought it was stupid that a woman would say that she screams her balls off. Women don’t have balls! Anyway, I still can’t shake my disdain. 

I’m a speed travelin’ hombre
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Freebird”
I must be travelin’ on now 

This was my brother-in-law’s creation, and it makes me giggle every time. Oddly, it could fit. 

I wanna be, your clamdigger
Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”
I wanna be, your sledgehammer 

“What the hell is a clamdigger?” At the time, I didn’t know it was a real profession. I guess my friend thought clams were an appropriate token of love. I suppose it is just as useful as a gaggle of swans a’simmin, or a bunch of maids a’milking. 

Hail to the flutter kick, same old chicken washed my brain. So I ate a pigeon steak, try to sneeze your blood my way.
Alice in Chains “Would”
Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then. So I made a big mistake, try to see it once my way. 

This was heard in the back of a Bradley armored personnel carrier, in the middle of combat during Desert Storm. The gunner started singing this at the top of his lungs, with a Brooklyn accent, no less. Mr. Pedant, I’ve got nothing to add.   

Turn your feet around
Vickie Sue Robinson “Turn the Beat Around”
Turn the beat around

 A sensible, albeit pointless, request.

 Why do we, cutsie-pie ourselves?
Tori Amos “Crucify”
Why do we, crucify ourselves?

 This was just too funny to omit. Oddly, the misinterpretation is the polar opposite of what Tori asked. The real lyric is more poignant, but the other really gets my imagination brewing. I picture a bunch of furry kittens tied with lilac ribbons to pink crosses, as they mew in harmony to this song. Oh yeah, and bunnies are hopping around them. Why? Because cute spectacles must contain at least one bunny. All together, now. AWWWWW!!! 

A-chin bubbly-bubbly Top Dog
Kula Shaker “Tattva”
Acintya bheda bheda Tattva 

What else is there to say about carbonated dogs with chins that hasn’t already been said? 

You don’t have to sell your potty to the night
The Police “Roxanne”
You don’t have to sell your body to the night 

When you think about it, both lyrics are essentially saying the same thing, one less eloquently than the other. 

Do you need a Wal-Mart to look after you?
Tori Amos “God”
Do you need a woman to look after you? 

Sorry, Tori. I’ll stop picking on you. 

Jesus is just a rat-wheeled freak
Doobie Brothers “Jesus is Just Alright”
Jesus is just alright with me 

It is amazing the things that run through the brain during the descent into the fiery pits of Hell. 

I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a peg leg woman ain’t got to sew
Led Zepplin “Black Dog”
I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a big legged woman ain’t got no soul 

Personally, I’d be too busy trying to move around with a peg-leg to make time for sewing. 

Now I pooh hard eggs
The Police “Every Breath You Take”
How my poor heart aches 

This lyric was misheard and published as “I’m a pool hall ace.” But really, who wouldn’t wail like Sting if he crapped stony eggs, if you let yourself contemplate such an unfortunate ignominy?  

Barefoot ghouls, dancin’ in the moonlight
Credence Clearwater Revival “Green River”
Barefoot girls, dancin’ in the moonlight

One is sexy, the other frightening. I’m good with it. 

The beagle flies with the duck
Crosby, Stills, and Nash “Love the One You’re With”
The eagle flies with the dove 

Mr. Stills, I love you, but you’re a mumble-ass. 

Oh, there’s more. But, in an effort to keep this post from getting too long, I must split this up. Tune in later for the second installment.

Being Kurt Vonnegut

Of all the writers this bibliophile has read and continues to discover, I rank Kurt Vonnegut in the upper echelon of literary geniuses. No one wrote caustic satire quite like him. While I don’t emulate him in my own work, or any author for that matter, a favorable comparison would be much welcomed, to say the least. Alas, if Dmitry Chestnykh is the arbiter of writing analysis, the probability of that happening is slim to none. 

Mr. Chestnykh is a Russian computer programmer who created the site I Write Like. I don’t know if it is viable for academic study, or was created for just giggles. Perhaps when some established authors were tested and came up with others than themselves, the latter seemed to be the likely purpose. As an example, Moby Dick was more reminiscent of Stephen King than of, well, Herman Melville. I wonder if Mr. Melville looked more like King’s brother than . . . regardless, the algorithm could use some tweaking. 

Here is the link, in case you want to participate in the same frustrating exercise I did—twenty-one times, to be precise. I just couldn’t resist the compulsion. 

I took excerpts of my blog postings, short stories, and even a couple of e-mails. I was on a quest to identify my wordsmith doppelgänger and hoped for some affirmation of my writing skills, to boot. Yes, I was shooting for at least one Kurt Vonnegut comparison. Did Dmitry throw me that bone? Of course not. Hell, I would have been happy with Kilgore Trout, even. Here is a list of what I did get and how many times, ranked from extremely flattering to suicide-inducing: 

  •  Vladimir Nabokov—1
  •  Stephen King—2
  •  David Foster Wallace—5
  •  H.P. Lovecraft—3
  •  Isaac Asimov—1
  •  Arthur Clark—1
  •  Ian Fleming—1
  •  Chuck Palahniuk—1
  •  Cory Doctorow—2
  •  Dan Brown—4 

Take a guess when I considered going the route of one of those authors. What, too soon? Seriously though, how can I write like one of the most successful hacks in recent memory, but have yet to crack the “Code” of making even one red cent from my writings? ‘Tain’t fair! By the way, who the Hell is Cory Doctorow? (Admittedly, as a sci-fi fan, I should have known who he was.) I felt like I stumbled into the Malkovichian portal to my own mind, to find all the authors above at a Halloween party where I was the only costume left on the rack for them to buy. It was not a pretty visual, let me tell you. In the words of one of my alleged brothers-in-words, “oh, the unspeakable horror!” 

At least I don’t write like Stephenie Meyer, with her damned eye-rolling, mumbling emo-pires (that’s another post entirely!). There’s that small blessing. To ensure that she was in the database or whatever the blazes is in that program, I put in an excerpt of her first book, Twilight, and there she was. Whew, I won’t fold up my laptop just yet. 

As I mentioned earlier, I got no Vonnegut hits, even though I have read more works from him than any other author. You’d think he would rub off, even a little. Just to make sure he was on the site’s radar, I put in a sample text from his famous Slaughterhouse-Five

“The Americans across the way told the guards again about the dead man on their car. The guards got a stretcher out of their own cozy car, opened the dead man’s car and went inside. The dead man’s car wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live colonels in there—one dead one.  

The Germans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it goes.” 

There he was. I made it easy for myself and substituted key words and phrases in it to change the spirit while preserving the grammatical structure: 

“The Canadians across the way told the penguins again about the dead seal on their igloo. The penguins got a glacier out of their own comfortable igloo, opened the dead seal’s igloo and went inside. The dead seal’s igloo wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live bears in there—one dead one. 

The Americans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it snows.” 

David Foster Wallace! What the. . . ? This should have been a slam-dunk. If I can’t write like Kurt Vonnegut, at least he should be able to write like himself! Before I went all Dwayne Hoover from Breakfast of Champions on my computer, I had to apply a healthy dose of perspective along with the grain of salt. Really, how intuitive are these programs, or anything that claims to sum up one’s personality based on a few bytes of information? According to one of the plethora of Facebook surveys I was suckered into taking, my aura was orange. Orange? Puh! Mine is clearly purple. I dismiss that on principle. In this case, I separate the wheat from the chaff and paraphrase Bruce Lee: I extract what strokes my ego and discard what bitch-slaps it. 

In conclusion, I am as masterful a writer as Vladimir Nabokov was. Woot woot! 

Did I mention I haven’t read anything from Wallace, yet? He is on my list, but blast it, he is a laborious read. Apparently, I’m actually so brilliant, even I find it hard to understand myself.