The year was 19 something or other. I was a teenager, sitting on a diving board over my best friend’s pool and singing along to some tunes playing from her boom box (“boom box” might narrow down the year).
“Um, what are you singing?” my BF asked from her floating lounge chair.
“The song.” (I’m missing a Duh here, but I’m trying to maintain the historical accuracy.)
She opened her eyes and looked at me. “Let me hear it again.”
I shrugged, waited for the chorus and then sang, “Ew ba ba leeba. Ewwww, ba ba leeba!”
I continued belting out a few more ba leeba’s even though my BF was laughing at me. You see the actual lyric is “Smooth operator, smooooth operator.” (You’re now one Google away from the year).
Anyway, that was the moment that I realized I am terrible with deciphering lyrics, and of course it didn’t end with the “ew ba ba leebas.” I’ve been screwing up lyrics for decades. Just a couple of months ago I found myself asking my teenage son about a song on the radio. I’d been singing it for a couple of weeks and wanted to know what the artist meant by, “I used to ball on my chicks.”
My son looked at me like I’d just farted. In front of his friends. And then he put his iPod headphones back into his ears.
Well I thought it was an honest question, because I can’t always be up on this generation’s vocabulary, right?
Turns out that lyric has nothing to do with balls or chicks. It’s “I used up all of my tricks.” Oh and the song title? “Cooler than me.”
Here I am singing, completely clueless to the lyrics and the effect of denim on denim.
Maybe I screw up the lyrics, because I love to write fiction–I’m more prone to making stuff up. I don’t know, but I do know that words are pretty important to me. Maybe the words are rebelling against me because of all the manipulating I put them through.
That would explain why I sometimes have trouble coming up with a word. Here’s me in the middle of a conversation at dinner last night: “What’s the word? It means looking up to something or holding it in high regard?”
“Envy?” A dear and very patient member of my family asked.
“No, it’s something positive . . . VALUE! Yes, value, that’s what I was trying to say.”
Did I mention I once screwed up the words to Smash Mouth’s All Star? It was the line about not being the sharpest tool in the shed.
But I’m not alone.
You can check out an entire archive of misheard lyrics here at Kiss this Guy.
Here are just a few:
Abba’s Dancing Queen: “See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen.”
Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n Roll: “I love rock and roll, put another dime in the juice box baby.”
John Newton’s Amazing Grace: “That saved a wench like me.”
But my all time favorite is from We Wish You a Merry Christmas: “Now bring us some friggin’ pudding.”
And it’s even funnier with visuals.
Do words ever fail you?