Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is A (Monde)green Thumb Hereditary?

(With thanks to Mark, whose comment on my post "Holy Infidel Frog," introduced me to the word "mondegreen," though I had long been all too well acquainted with the concept.)

Growing up, our house had a soundtrack on the weekends--our dad singing aloud to whatever was on the radio or record player. Johnny Rivers, Gordon Lightfoot and Charlie Rich were always in heavy rotation. Consequently, I feel like I was practically born1 knowing the words to songs like "Poor Side of Town" and "Sundown" and "Rollin' With The Flow." 

It's as though certain songs from certain albums were hard-wired into my neural programming. For as long as I can remember, I've been able to sing along to those songs without missing a beat2, no matter how long it had been since the last time I heard them.

Or so I thought. I recently put Charlie Rich's "Rollin' With The Flow" (written by Jerry Hayes, credit where it's due) on a mixed CD to listen to in the van. The song is basically about a guy who has refused to settle down and is proud of it, while at the same time a little surprised to still be alive.

There was a line in the chorus that my dad always sang, "I've got my angel raisin' kids, but I'm raisin' hell just like I did." Makes a certain kind of sense, right? Give the little woman a shout-out while you're bragging about still lovin' rock-and-roll and hanging out with your crazy friends, who forgive you of your sins?

For decades, I've sung it the same way and then one day this past week, something caught my ear as Charlie belted out that line. I thought to myself, "That sounds like a consonant at the beginning of that line." It was as if my whole world shifted beneath my feet--or at least the teeny corner of it reserved for my perceived mastery of pop music lyrics.

I skipped back a little in the CD and played the line again, trying desperately to figure out what he was saying because it was clear that it wasn't what I (or my dad apparently) had always thought. "Why guard my angel raisin' kids?" or "While God sends angels raising kids?" or "Why gargle angles on the skids?"

After several days of fruitless replaying, it was time for a sit-down with my pal Google. If what my father passed down to me was a mondegreen, what the first website offered me was surely a mondegreener: "I don't guide my age on raisin kicks."

Of course the actual answer--when I found it--was so obvious, I have no idea how I ever heard it any other way: "While guys my age are raisin' kids, I'm raising hell just like I did."

My dad turned 62 today. I'm not sure how much hell he feels like raisin', but his long-time girlfriend recently sent out a family email telling us all how he was serenading her during their week-plus vacation/road trip. It's nice to know some things haven't changed.

1. Never mind the fact that many of said songs were released well after my birth.

2. Please note: "without missing a beat" refers solely to knowing the lyrics and when and where to place them. I make no claim to any other ability commonly thought of as crucial to singing "well" or even tolerably.


  1. Yeah, I always go back to Elvis' "It's now or never, my love for Drake…"
    or maybe that was, "My love won't wait…" Whatever. Please do not confuse me with the facts. I'm glad I found this post so early this morning. I will be smiling all day as a result.

  2. I like "rasin kicks" :) - It's one thing to KNOW you're not sure of some lyrics. Definitely messes with your head when you thought you knew them perfectly! At least the real line makes sense. Sometimes the wrong one is better!

    "Mondegreen" - Never heard that expression. Gonna have to go look it up now!

    ***** Insert hold music here *****

    Ok this is interesting. I was curious about the word because I thought "Doesn't that translate to 'Green world?' " I was wondering if maybe its origins were something along the lines of trying to make the world seem better in your mind by coming up with lyrics that made sense to it - or something like that. It turns out it's nothing like that. Webster's Dictionary says: "....from the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of “laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen”
    First Known Use: 1954"

    Neat :)

  3. More pup culture schooling. Ai ai ai. Between you and Periphery, I will be so cultured, I'll be going making references to Bowie, Bono, and Rivers really soon.

    And I've often gotten the lyrics to songs wrong, drives me crazy, but hey, at least I eventually figured it out right?

  4. Oh dear. Smiles and thoughts are stirring within me. So here are my thoughts in order:
    1) Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown...burned into my grey matter. Love it.
    2) Olivia Newton John and John Travolta "You're the one that I want" was "You're the Wizard of O's" forever. I thought it was a cereal commercial.
    3) Loved your post.


  5. It's a GREAT story, and some days I wish I was raising hell while other people my age were raising this kids - so I really get it, ya know? But that's just some days.... :)

  6. You know, given the nature of this particular mondegreen, maybe your Dad changed the lyrics to suit him? Would be interesting- you should ask, never know...could have been intentional! I do this all the time- I'm terrible with song lyrics in both French and English. I'll be in the car belting out a song with confidence, when all of a sudden Ian will dissolve into giggles beside me.

  7. Youngest Sister2/13/12, 12:00 PM

    Oh, geez. I've had wrong all this time too. Don't tell me we screwed up Poor Side of Town, too? Or Tracks of My Tears??