Cross-eyed bears and friendly ants

My late mother thought Gladly was rather a nice name for a bear, but as a child she could never imagine why they were singing about it in church, or why they had to reference the poor creature’s strabismus. “For years I thought they were singing, ‘Gladly, the cross-eyed bear’,” she once told me.

What she experienced is known as a mondegreen, a term coined in the 1950s by American writer Sylvia Wright. She coined the word from a misheard line in the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl o’ Moray”:

They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And laid him on the green.

Which Wright heard as:

They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

“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,” she reckoned.

I reckon so too.

Pop songs are particularly rich with misheard lyrics. Here are some of my favourites…

The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind.
Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in the Wind.
(“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.”)

We built this city on sausage rolls.
Jefferson Starship, We Built this City.
(“We built this city on rock ‘n’ roll.”)

There is a bathroom on the right.
Credence Clearwater Revival, Bad Moon Rising.
(“There is a bad moon on the rise.”)

Let’s pee in the corner, let’s pee in the spotlight.
REM, Losing My Religion.
(“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight.”)

I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone.
Johnny Nash, I Can See Clearly Now.
(“I can see clearly now the rain has gone.”)

See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen.
Abba, Dancing Queen.
(“See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen.”)

It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked it or not.
Bon Jovi, Living On A Prayer. (“It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.”)

The girl with colitis goes by,
The Beatles, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. (“The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”)

I got my first real sex dream.
Bryan Adams, Summer of 69.
(“I got my first real six-string.”)

I’ll never leave your pizza burning.
The Rolling Stones, Beast of Burden.
(“I’ll never be your beast of burden.”)

I remove umbilicals.
Hot Chocolate, You Sexy Thing.
(“I believe in miracles.”)

Who you gonna call? Those bastards!
Ghostbusters theme song.
(“Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”)

Like a virgin, touched for the 31st time.
Madonna, Like a Virgin.
(“Live a virgin, touched for the very first time.”)

Got a favourite mondegreen? Leave a reply below! And in the meantime, remember, the ants are your friends.

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  1. Love Mondegreens and delighted to learn by reading your blog, where the name Mondegreen originates from. My favourite is when our two sons were young lads and they thought Dire Straits were singing ‘Money for nothing and your cheques for free’….hmmm. the word is chicks…. but of course this mondegreen only works if you are old enough to recall writing cheques.

    1. Love it! I remember a friend’s young son singing, “Deck the halls with Buddy Holly” — and I now can’t remember the right words!

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