All my life, I've heard songs on the radio and misunderstood a word or two of the lyrics. Which I never knew, until years later when somebody set me straight, generally to my embarrassment.
Turns out, millions of other people get confused as I do. A word has even been coined for the phenomenon: "Mondegreens." (How this name was chosen is a story in itself and you can find it, you guessed it, on the Web.) And there are websites where people around the world admit to their own favorite mis-heard song lyrics.
For instance, if you've always thought the line "Big old jet airliner..." was "Big old Jack and his lighter..." you've got company, and lots of it. When you have a few pleasant hours to spend, Google "mondegreens" as a search term and get a chuckle at other music fans' embarrassing moments.
I found lots of favorites, but none better than the person who heard Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky..." as "Excuse me while I kiss this guy..."
Running a close second (and third) are hearing Prince's "She wore a raspberry beret..." as "She wore raspberries and grapes...", and believing that the carol "Away in a Manger," instead of saying "The cattle are lowing..." says "The cattle are glowing..." Which, if you've already got concerns about the safety of nuclear power, doesn't help a bit.
The only reason I bring it all up is that I'm currently at a stage where my own hearing of half-heard conversations is even more iffy than usual. Basically I have what's known medically as "chronic cerumen impaction," which sounds cooler than "plumb boatloads of ear wax." I have an annual appointment to get same cleared up, and it's three weeks away. Which is none too soon.
This week alone, I've heard people shopping in stores have conversations with each other like, "What's that flare?" "Is it an alpaca?" "Yeah, I can't chase flies for nothing!"
And, "Is it Rosie, or Cornelia?" "No, it's Al Barrow. Same kind you rubber a bun."
Listening to radio and TV is even more problematic. Or as my brain would hear it, "bottom attic."
The characters in ordinary family sit-coms regularly say things to each other that would curl a censor's hair, and which obviously don't need repeating in a family publication.
Changing the channel to public TV programming, which ordinarily is a pleasure, only makes matters worse. Listening to British detectives trying to solve a murder mystery on loud city street-corners and in crowded bars...rather, crowded *pubs*...is a challenge for the ol' ear drums in the best of times. With cerumen in the way, it becomes downright impossible.
Which is where technology comes to the rescue. I bless the names, each day, of the scientists who invented and implemented the miracle of closed-captioning for televisions. With words underneath the picture, the mystery suddenly becomes clear. (Or as clear as a mystery can be, at least.)
So, there is hope. I saw this week that Google is working on a way to make the insides of eyeglasses behave like a computer screen, so that you can speak commands, hands-free, to look up words in dictionaries or scroll through a series of images that resemble an object you're looking at, for instance.
At this very moment, I'm guessing there's some blessed nerd somewhere in the California hills creating a software program to add captions to the speech of passersby you encounter while shopping.
Which would really be a trip. Or clearly be a rip. Or merely a crypt. Depending on my exact degree of cerumenal impaction, at the time. Wouldn't it?
Yes, you out there with your hand raised...
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His newest book, "I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama: 25th Anniversary Edition" is available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program "Music from Home" airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 and is archived afterward on his website.