It’s that time of year again, where we pull out the Christmas music, old and new, to get us in the holiday spirit. Every year artists old and new put their distinctive spin on popular holiday standards and hymns, creating the soundtrack for our parties, tree trimming and other holiday gatherings. And, like most songs, they also lend themselves to interpretation…and sometimes, MIS-interpretation. Many a song has had a mondegreen—or a misheard lyric—pop up, often with strange and amusing outcomes.
For instance, depending on who’s singing the tune, there are TEN reindeer named in the classic “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and apparently she’s a mean little bugger:
- “…OLIVE, the other reindeer,
Used to laugh and call him names…..”
- “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing through this way…..”
Even funnier was Joyce DeWitt’s Janet correcting her with the proper verse, “Let nothing you dismay,” which prompted Chrissy to respond, “Oh, I’m not sad….”
- “Hark! The HAROLD angels sing…..”
Language barriers can bring about some fun, too, especially when you try to figure out how, outside of the Nativity scene, you can bring sheep into the fun of Christmas:
- “FLEECE Navidad”
While we’re discussing animals and Christmas, those darn Chipmunks had me confused for years:
- “We can hardly STAND AWAY,
Please Christmas, don’t DELAY…..”
(Though I have to admit, I wanted that hula hoop, too…..)
And let’s not forget the merry band of misheard oddities in “Winter Wonderland“. I mean, if we’re in the meadow building snowmen, I imagine we have to be looking at a large, vast field of white fluffy snow:
- “In the meadow we can build a snowman,
We can say that he is SPARSE AND BROWN”
Of course, once we figure out it’s PARSON BROWN, the true lyric “married” makes more sense…because I always wondered how you could be doing all these fun winter activities and not be happy:
- “He’ll say are you MERRY, we’ll say ‘No, man’….”
Of course, that’s not even the STRANGE part of the song. Later versions have the second verse pretending the snowman is a circus clown, and while I can understand a bunch of rambunctious youngsters knocking it over, I still haven’t figured out where the alligators come in:
- “In the meadow, we can build a snowman,
We’ll pretend that he’s a circus clown,
We’ll have lots of fun with Mr. Snowman
Until the ALLIGATORS KNOCK HIM DOWN….”
But even more interesting than mishearing the lyrics are the changing lyrics. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is not that bad—I only have to figure out if “you can count on me” or “you can plan on me.” (Sounds like the same thing to me, but who am I to stomp on someone else’s vocal interpretation?) But the most schizophrenic song of the holiday season has got to be “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I do know that the original version was part of the movie Meet Me In St. Louis with Judy Garland, and those lyrics probably best fit with the storyline as well.
- “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yuletide gay,
Next year, all our troubles will be miles away….
Here we are as in olden days…happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends that are dear to us gather near to us once more.
Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow…
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”
Sounds fine to me, but I’m guessing some deeply devout Christian singer decided it was not cheery or “seasonally accurate” enough, so the verse changed a little:
- “Through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow,
HANG A SHINING STAR UPON THE HIGHEST BOUGH,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now….”
Some more Fundamentalist type won’t even give the illusion that they buy into chance and mythology, singing “if THE LORD allows.” Which is true, but was it deep enough to change a song lyric that was already cozy and welcoming? Plus, who decided that “next year, all our troubles….” Had to be “from now on our troubles….”? Alright, I SUPPOSE “next year” sounds a little defeatist, as if you’re dwelling on a miserable Christmas. I guess that one’s OK….
Ah well, impressions and interpretations aside, I’m sure you can all agree that whatever you hear (or mishear), it’s bound to create a Merry Christmas.
Kiss This Guy: The Archive of Misheard Lyrics: http://www.kissthisguy.com/1232song-Have-Yourself-a-Merry-Little-Christmas.htm
Snopes.com–The Red and the Mondegreen: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/humor/mondegreens.asp
The Data Lounge: Misheard Lyrics from Christmas Songs:
Straight Dope Message Board: Christmas Lyrics You Misheard as a Kid:
The Musings of David Amulet — Misheard Lyrics, Christmas Edition (a little on the adult side):
LibraryThing.com – Misheard or Misunderstood Christmas Carol or Holiday Song Lyrics
Bits and Pieces — Misheard Christmas Lyrics:
Also check these books out:
Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly: And Other Misheard Christmas Lyrics
Olive, the Other Reindeer