When I was about three years old I liked to listen to the music from "Guys and Dolls" on our scratchy old record player.
For some reason--perhaps because I was fond of animals--I particularly loved the lyrics of "Fugue for Tinhorns," which I'd often warble semi-tunefully for a small audience of my parents' friends (yes, I know, shameless self-aggrandizer).
Do you know the song? It offers advice for betting on horse races. Here's a little sampler:
I got the horse right here
The name is Paul Revere
And here's a guy that says that the weather's clear
Can do, can do, this guy says the horse can do
If he says the horse can do, can do, can do.
What did I understand about the words? Not very much, although I did know that they had something to do with horses and racing, and that "Paul Revere" and the other names in the song (I especially liked "Valentine") referred to the animals.
But much of the meaning of the song was unintelligible to me. The many parts I didn't comprehend ("I've got the feed box noise"??) I memorized in a sort of phonetic, syllable-by-syllable rote way, trying to give them meaning as I went along, or ignoring meaning when I couldn't divine any.
"Feed box noise," for instance, was just that--a lot of noise, full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing. I couldn't make it into any words at all, so it remained something like "fee pox voize" in my mind.
But other parts seemed to include recognizable words, although those words didn't always make a whole lot of sense. There was this: "It's from a handicapper that's real sincere," which I turned into "It's from a handy capper that's real sincere." A handy capper: someone good with his hands who made caps, or who wore caps--whatever.
And in my mind there it stayed--as "handy capper."
I hardly ever thought of those song lyrics again, until one day well into middle adulthood, when for some reason the song came up. I was discussing the lyrics with a friend, and I started to say, "One thing I don't understand; what's a 'handy capper'?" But as those words were about to come out of my mouth, they suddenly coalesced into a single word, one I actually knew and connected to horse racing--"handicapper"--and I burst out laughing at my own stupidity.
What I'd done was to create something known as a "mondegreen," and by no means one of the most amusing ones around. But the internet comes to the rescue; here's a site with some wonderful mondegreens. Especially fine, I think, are the following:
All my luggage, I will send to you.
(Actual lyric: All my loving, I will send to you--Beatles)
Baby come back, you can play Monopoly.
Actual lyric: Baby come back, you can blame it all on me.
(Player "Baby Come Back")
Come shave my heart.
Actual lyric:Unchain my heart.
Donuts make my brown eyes blue.
Actual lyric:Don't it make my brown eyes blue.
Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul.
Actual lyric:Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul.
(Dobie Gray "Drift Away") (I think I may have succumbed to this one myself.)
Hold me closer, Tony Danza
Count the head lice on the highway.
Actual lyric: Hold me closer, tiny dancer.
(Elton John "Tiny Dancer")
Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby.
Actual lyric:Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.
(Juice Newton "Angel of the Morning")
Last night I dreamt of some bagels.
Actual lyric:Last night I dreamt of San Pedro.
he's got a chicken to ride.
Actual lyric:She's got a ticket to ride.
She's got electric boobs, a mohair too.
Actual lyric:She's got electric boots, a mohair suit.
(Elton John "Benny and the Jets")
Sugar fried honey butt.
Actual lyric:Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.
(Four Tops "Can't Help Myself")
Got any of your own?