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Slices of Life - Words gone wrong

March 21, 2014
Jill Pertler - Columnist , Traer Star-Clipper

I found myself humming a tune I'd heard on the radio, "I came in like a rainbow. La la la de da." Like many songs, most of the words eluded me, but I sang the ones I knew for sure. Over and over - the rainbow. I came in like a rainbow. Yes I did.

And then there was all the hoopla about the Grammys and I got a visual snippit of the song's video on the news and realized my rainbow was none other than everyone else's wrecking ball. Just imagine. Let's just say knowing the correct words to the pop tune gave it a whole new meaning.

Song lyrics buzz by the ears so quickly they're easily misinterpreted. Some errors are so widespread they're practically more common than the correct version. For many of us, Bon Jovi sings, "It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not," but for those select few who mishear, the lyrics become, "It doesn't make a difference if we're naked or not." Seems words do make a difference, at least when it comes to clothing, or lack thereof.

Here's your history lesson for the day: The Beatles weren't referring to the Peanuts comic strip when they sang, "Lucy's in a fight with Linus." The correct lyrics, while appearing ethereal on the surface, were pretty down-to-earth. "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" stemmed from a piece of preschool artwork completed by young Julian Lennon, which featured his friend and classmate, Lucy.

AC/DC's "Dirty deeds and the thunder chief," does not refer to Native Americans. Instead, the line they sang was "Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap." (Even I knew that one.)

Consorting with and contorting words isn't a hobby limited to adults. Our kids have managed to mangle the English language on more than a few occasions. When our daughter was a toddler, I used to write them down. (She was our firstborn and you always take more notes than necessary with the first one.) One of her favorite movies was Disney's "Jungle Book." She loved the theme song, "The Bare Necessities," and for her the movie became, "Bears on Sesame Street."

A second favorite Disney movie was "The Aristocrats," except she interpreted the title as "The Whisker Cats." For me the movie still is "The Whisker Cats." Always will be.

My husband and I had an ongoing disagreement about the last line of the Flintstones (meet the Flintstones) theme song for decades. This was pre-Internet, in the olden days before Google was a verb, so we were left without searching capabilities to end our discord.

The correct wording of line in question is "You'll have a gay old time." (Gay referring to happiness in this context and having nothing to do with rainbows.) One of us thought the line was sung, "You'll have a day all night." We argued about it for years. We both still think we are the one who is right. Yabba dabba do, we do.

Kids and adults aside, even the sanctity of a national anthem is not safe from our erring ears. I giggle at what some wordsmiths do with the anthem of our neighbors to the north: "Oh, Canada - I stand on cars and freeze."

Not to be outdone by the Canucks - unless we are talking Olympic hockey - I applied a little research and creative skills to the anthem of the good old U.S.A., which has been the brunt of numerous misdirected interpretations over the decades. Here is a compilation of a few:

"Jose, canoe ski, by the dog's surly bite

What so loudly prevailed at the nightlight's last cleaning?

Use fraud stripes and bright tarts threw the bear's loveless fight,

Or the ram's parts we lost were so valiantly streaming?

And the prophet's despair, and Bob's purse strings in there,

Caved roof through the died that our plague was still there,

Oh sadist that star mangled ban hairnet rave

Or Thailand of the Brie in the hole mud depraved?"

Verbal communication - it's pretty easy to mess it up, even if you do possess 20/20 hearing. In a perfect world, there'd be no misheard words, but that wouldn't be any fun. Besides, I'm not sure we could attain that level of perfection anywhere on earth. To accomplish that, we'd have to tap our heels together and transport ourselves to a new land - one that is somewhere over the wrecking ball, perhaps.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.



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