Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Stupid Mishearing

For years I've had a special drawer in my mind that records what I would call fractured mishearings of song lyrics.

Just today, G and I were in the kitchen and he barely started to hum "The Immigrant Song" by Page and Plant of Led Zeppelin. Then he went into a deliberately funny and obnoxious mime dance of a flailing rock star, shaking his long hair and throwing his guitar around. I was washing dishes, but I sang the lyrics. He said [get this] "Mom, how do you know every lyric to every song?" As if I were so old I could never have owned a radio as a child. Gawd.

While we were singing this song together, I confessed to G that I never had been able to understand a particular line of the lyrics to "The Immigrant Song," even though I had listened carefully to all the lyrics for about a thousand years. It was a function of the recording, not a problem with the artists or their lyrics. I've written articles on this subject (misheard lyrics) before, but today I confessed a crowner that I hadn't mentioned before because I'd completely forgotten about it.

Even as a young child, I had always understood that "The Immigrant Song" was about the Viking invasions. And so it is. But there was a single line which threw me, making me think the song was not only about the Vikings, but also perhaps about Ellis Island immigrants. What I didn't understand was the line that begins,
Oh we sweep with thrashing oar
And since childhood, I've thought the next line was
I want to go and see the Western show!
My childhood reasoning was that yes, the Scandinavians were "immigrants" [read invaders] very early, and then much later, in the 19th century, many immigrants came by boat to America for what they hoped would be a more prosperous life, not as invaders. So as a kid I reasoned that perhaps along the way the immigrants might have heard about cowboys in America, and Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. But I could not understand why, out of the entire song, there was just one line that seemed to allude to more recent times and goof up the unity--the established chronology of the whole song. It was just too anachronistic in the middle of a song that otherwise made exclusively ancient references. It was plausible, but really bothered me.

G quickly researched the exact lyrics. He found out that the real line was
Our only goal will be the western shore.
G said, "That's excellent, Mom! I really like it! I think that's your stupidest mishearing yet!"

Ooooooh, ooooooh, ooooooh. Ooooooh, ooooooh, ooooooh.

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3 Comments:

At 7/14/2007 11:17 AM, Blogger miriam said...

I too remember the lyrics to damn near everything. I feel like a living fossil.

 
At 7/14/2007 10:29 PM, Blogger Nance said...

I think those mishearings are actually called "Mondegreens." There's a big, long story behind the name that I won't bore you with, but you can look up on your own.

 
At 7/14/2007 11:24 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

Yay, Nance! Someone else who knows what a Mondegreen is! [Scots accent] "They laid'im on t'green." What? Lady who? Lady Mondegreen?

 

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