Misheard Lyric

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I was asked to write about a couple of songs for a class–a 400 level class no less–and I had chosen Sleeping Lessons by The Shins for one of my selections. That is, until I looked up the actual words. The one word that was key to its genius turned out to be another word entirely.

Mishearing it had improved the poetry!

And if the old gods still offend,
They got nothing left on which you depend,
So enlist every ounce of your bright blood,
And off with their heads.
Jump from the book,
You’re not obliged to swallow anything you despise…

Two tiny changes altered the meaning completely. This version conjures up scenes of a new society throwing off millennia of religious dogma, a new age of rationality, rejection, struggle, the youth rising up to reinvent humanity. It’s somewhat an accurate reflection of our secular western world today.

That’s what I heard.

The actual lyric is:

And if the old guards still defend,
They got nothing left on which you depend…

Wait. Back up. Who are these old guards? And why did you just ruin the most poignant, socially relevant refrain I’ve heard in years? Dammit. Can’t win.

I suppose a case could be made that the two ideas are similar. But one is human, the other mythical and supernatural. One prompts an analysis of politics and corruption, the other was a sweeping statement about social evolution and the rejection of religious mind control. I still like the song, but I can’t shake the feeling of its downgrading.

I often mishear lyrics. There are so many vocal effects and garbled annunciation it’s inevitable. Sometimes it’s best not to double check, not to discuss it, and to just keep the magic to yourself.

Anyone mishear something interesting?

Not intersted in the memes floating around from random others. What did YOU personally experience?


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One thought on “Misheard Lyric

  1. I often start writing a short story based upon a misheard or misquoted song line. Even if the story drifts away from the line and it has to be deleted from the final version, it’s are a good prompting tool.

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