I’m listening to the Coverville podcast a few months ago, as I usually do a couple of times a week. Brian was doing the Mondegreen episode, a term that, if I had heard it, I had forgotten. The definition, which I stole from somewhere: “Misheard lyrics (also called mondegreens) occur when people misunderstand the lyrics in a song. These are NOT intentional rephrasing of lyrics, which is called parody.” There are whole websites devoted to this issue.
The last song on the show, not only had I gotten wrong for years, but have SUNG it incorrectly when performing with my sister.
The correct lyric is:
stopped into a church
I passed along the way
well, I got down on my knees
and I pretend to pray
Yet all these years, I had been hearing:
and I began to pray
To be fair to me, many other people of my vintage heard it the same way. I know this because I asked a number of them. And it is noted as a common error in Kiss This Guy, named after a misheard line from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze: “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
I never misheard that Hendrix lyric or this line from California Dreamin’ offered up by Am I Right?
You know you’re preaching like the Pope.
You know the preacher likes the cold.
But the one I DID mishear I’ve thought about a number of times since. Seems that the fact that the verse has three verbs in the past tense (stopped, passed, got) tunes the ear for a fourth (began) rather than a present tense verb such as pretend. They COULD have sung “pretended” and I don’t think it ruins the scansion. Here are the complete lyrics.
BTW, what linguistic tool is being used when you speak in the present tense about things that happened in the past? “So I go to the store. I see an item I want. I buy it.” Past action, but present tense verbs.
John eventually married and divorced Michelle. John performed this version on his album Phillips 66, which was released posthumously in 2001; he would have been 75 today. Michelle Phillips is the remaining survivor of the Mamas and the Papas.
What lyrics have YOU misheard, and how did you finally figure it out?