In the 1990s a college buddy of mine published a series of short books about misheard song lyrics. The first one was called ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy.
I’ve misheard song lyrics my whole life, but my mishearings are off the charts. Iʻve considered taking medication for them.
Take the 1976 hit that goes
I’m not talkin’ ’bout moving in,
And I don’t want to change your life.
But there’s a warm wind blowing, the stars are out,
And I’d really love to see you tonight.
It seems a number of people mishear line 3, quite reasonably, as
There’s a warm wind blowing the stars around.
But I don’t get nearly that far. I always thought the very first line was
I’m not talkin’ Aborigine.
which is true, you know. Heʻs not.
“Those are great songs,” I said, “but for pure trippiness you can’t beat ‘Expectancy of a Rhino.’”
“You can’t beat what?”
“’Expectancy of a Rhino,’” I repeated. I sang a few lines.
A friend took me aside. “That’s not ‘Expectancy of a Rhino,’” he whispered. “It’s ‘Big Ol’ Jet Airliner.’”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s not nearly as cool.”
“No,” he agreed. “It’s better your way.”
By the time she reached Kindergarten it was clear that CJ shared my affliction. She was six, of course, and come to think of it a lot of my misheard songs were popular when I was six or so. So maybe it’s a stage. But I never outgrew it.
I was driving CJ to school one morning, and heard her singing in the back seat. The song was by a math-themed boy band called Sound Check, from the kids’ show “Odd Squad.” The actual lyrics are
One and one and one, one baby,
I’ll be keepin’ score.
There’s nothing left for me
Cause you take away four.
But CJ sang
One and one and one, now baby,
I’ll be chore….
I interrupted: “Can you start over?”
CJ sang it again.
“’I’ll be chore?” I repeated. “What does that even mean?”
“Maybe he has to do a bunch of chores?” CJ suggested.
“It’s a love song,” I said. “What do chores have to do with it?”
“I don’t know, Daddy. I didn’t write the song.”
Toward the end of her kindergarten year, I took CJ to the movie Trolls. The movie ends with the song “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which CJ already knew because it was a huge hit. I couldn’t stop her from singing along in the theater. When the lights came up, a woman from the front row complimented me on my daughter’s singing voice.
CJ resumed singing when we got in the car, and now I felt free to join in. I belted the chorus:
I got sunshine in my pocket.
I got ginseng in my beak.
CJ stopped me. “That’s not how it goes, Daddy!”
“No. It goes like this:
I got sunshine in my pocket.
I got goosum in my beat….
I stopped her. “Goosum in my beat? What does that mean?”
“Let me finish,” she said.
When I get a wedgie rocket, don’t stop.
“What’s a wedgie rocket?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Daddy.” CJ burst into tears. “I’ll sing the song my way, and you sing it your way! But not in the car! You can sing it your way at work!”
She was more than animated. I handed her a cracker to calm her down.
When we got home, I looked up the lyrics on the internet. It turns out “ginseng in my beak” is “good soul in my feet.” And “wedgie rocket” is “the way we rock it.”
It was better our way.