There’s a really awful old British Music Hall joke that goes:
I say, I say, I say, “If I’ve got fruit and jelly in one ear and cake and cream in the other. What am I ?”
“I don’t know, What are you?”
“A trifle deaf!”
I know, that’s terrible, but I did warn you.
With or without dessert filled ears, mishearing can lead to some wonderfully ridiculous confusions. I once had a conversation with a Brazilian friend who spoke good English but who’s accent was strong (or maybe it was mine?).
I’m not sure how it came up but I was talking about hippies and saying, “The whole thing started in San Francisco.” She said she didn’t realize that, and had been under the impression it had begun in the Amazon Basin. This surprised me and for what must have been a whole two minutes we put forward our respective takes on the matter, but our conversation seemed to be spiraling into bizarre nonsense. Finally, we stopped, backtracked, and concluded that while I had been talking about the flower people she had been discussing the origins of herpes.
That conversation righted itself pretty quickly, but It’s amazing how long we can hold on to the misheard.
Almost everyone has a line from a song they've wildly misinterpreted.
Amongst the many I've had inadvertently distorted are:
Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer, “...a pocket full of Mongols”. And even though I now know it should be ‘mumbles’, I still imagine a hip-full of miniature marauding horsemen.
The Four Tops song, “Burn the Dead” (Bernadette).
And then there was the astrological dawning of The New Age with, “A Hairy Ass”.
Billy Connolly the great Scottish comedian, describes how, as a boy he thought the hymn, “Gladly the Cross I’d Bare” was all about a cross-eyed bear called Gladly.
But my all time favorite came from my son Paul when he was about nine. A guy on the radio had been talking about misheard lyrics and Paul piped up. “Yeah, there was a Beachboys’ song that confused me for ages. It was the one that goes, “She’ll have fun, fun, fun till her Daddy takes her teabag away”. (For the un-initiated that’s T-Bird).
And to conclude, because I am Canadian.
I give you, The Canadian National Anthem—
“Oh Canada, we stand on cars and freeze...”