Music · Omnibus · Trivia

We have lyrics.com now – stop making up mondegreens

As a fan a trivia, one of my pet peeves is a trivia question that is so trivial that it comes across as boring, stupid, or both.  An entire category can become hijacked by too many of these bad trivia questions, especially if it is dedicated to a specific subject matter (e.g.: “Star Trek”; phobias). But the one category that has been completely ruined, thanks in part to recreational drugs, is the mondegreen. A mondegreen is a misheard or misinterpreted phrase, usually associated with certain musical lyrics. It is understandable that children will often do this due to their lack of vocabulary and lack of listening skills. And it is understandable for certain musicians who are notorious for not being able to be understood clearly when singing. However, not only is the subject considered hack comedy material (one of the biggest offenders is the comic strip Family Circus), but in the Information Age known as the 21st Century, it now makes for some really lousy trivia as well.

Look, my hearing is not so good, so I misinterpret lyrics all the time. But some of the more recent mondegreens that are brought up all the time, (by most recent, I mean mostly classic rock songs), are just plain ridiculous. “Tony Danza” for Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer?” “Lock the cash box” for The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah?” I have concluded that these mondegreens were due to influence of taking a lot of drugs and/or alcohol. Sure, some singers are hard to understand – Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain; and some songs are just plain inaudible – “Louie, Louie;” “Blinded by the Light;” “Tumbling Dice;” “Smells like Teen Spirit.” And there are mondegreens made by design – “Jabberwocky” for example. But if I hear someone sing, “There’s a bathroom on the right” one more time, someone is going to get hurt.

And speaking of greens, here’s a trivia question for you, What do the following have in common: Ethan Allen; Billy Joe Armstrong; King Henry VIII; Jim Henson; Michael McKean; Ryan Reynolds; Seth Rogan; Michael Stipe; and Tulane University? Answer: all are associated with the color green – The Green Mountain Boys; Green Day; “Greensleeves”; “It’s not easy being green”; Mr. Green from the 1985 movie “Clue”; :The Green Lantern”; “The Green Hornet”; the 1988 album “Green”, and the Green Wave. I wouldn’t put this question in the same class as Ken Jennings’ weekly trivia quiz, especially since the 2 superhero movies were released earlier this year, but it is a question I thought up while at a Taco Bell, staring at one of their Verde salsa packets. And speaking of Mr Jennings, I used his trivia almanac for some examples of mondegreens (May 24).

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