I have happy memories of a small backpacking hostel in Indonesia, where, in the evening, the owner and some friends sat around strumming guitars.
I joined in, in my amateurish way. We played variations on the greatest hits of Eric Clapton – the variations coming from the fact that they, without much knowledge of English, often misheard the original lyrics and were very keen to check with me that they were getting them right. They knew the basic sounds, and I remember one guy earnestly singing, “Snog, snog, snogging on the seventh floor”, where I think Clapton had intended to convey the concept of knocking on heaven’s door.
But I’ve been guilty of some of these, too. I remember being puzzled, in my youth, by the Toto song ‘Africa’ which stated that “there’s nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do”. (It’s actually ‘a hundred men or more’.) And, at a rather earlier age, my somewhat parochial horizons could be deduced from my belief that the Abba lyrics, “I was sick and tired of everything / When I called you last night, Francesco” actually referred to somebody calling ‘last night, from Tesco’ (a big supermarket chain here in the UK). Rose thought it was nice that Paul Simon could report that “Rene and Georgia agreed with their dog after the war”.
Anyway, I discovered today that such mis-hearings have a name. They’re called Mondegreens. Rose found a nice section on this page entitled “The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind” which explains the name, and, of course, there are quite a few on Wikipedia.
But, go on – add your own favourites in the comments. The original ones are the best…