Geek Trivia

When You Mishear Song Lyrics You Are Experiencing?

Semantic Saturation
Lyrical Transposition
Hypolyricism
Mondegreen
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Answer: Mondegreen

A mondegreen is a mishearing of a phrase as a result of near-homophony in a way that gives a new, distinct, and valid meaning (but that does not match the actual phrase). The most common examples of this come from song lyrics as they are generally spoken or sung quickly. The brain has to quickly make meaning of them, and it is easy, given the lyrical nature of the experience, to confuse the words.

One of the most common examples is the mishearing of the lyrics in the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze as “scuse me while I kiss this guy” instead of “scuse me while I kiss the sky”. The mondegreen of that particular line is so common, in fact, that the domain kissthisguy.com is devoted to collecting humourous musical mondegreens.

If you’ve ever found yourself embarrassed upon finding out your version of the lyrics was wrong and that, in fact, the girl Prince was singing about a girl who wore “a raspberry beret” and not “rags, very good rags” don’t beat yourself up. The human brain is primed to find meaning even when the delivery is unclear, and all of us at some point have misheard a line or two.

Bonus Trivia: The mishearing of song lyrics (specifically) is referred to by the mondegreen sub-category term soramimi.