Cognitive Daily

Casual Fridays is back!

Have you missed Casual Fridays? Our travel schedule over the summer made it impossible for us to keep up with Casual Fridays, but for the 2006-07 school year, we’ll be back each Friday with either a new study or the results from the previous week. There’s no better time than the present to get started, so let’s go:

The inspiration for this week’s study came from a dispute among our family members while watching one of our “guilty pleasure” TV shows. Greta disagrees with the rest of the family on the lyrics of the show’s theme song. Each of us is certain that the others must be mistaken in their understanding of the lyrics.

When I was a kid and the Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust” was first hitting the airwaves, I swore up and down that the lyrics were actually “Another one bites the doctor.” It took years for me to finally admit to the awful truth.

In this week’s study, we’ll play two difficult-to-parse bits from popular songs, then ask you for your version of the lyrics. The idea is to see if there’s a general consensus about musical lyrics, or if discord prevails. We’ll also make a primitive effort to try to identify the cause of the confusion.

Click here to participate.

As usual, the survey is brief — just 6 questions, which should only take a minute of your time. You have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 30 to participate — or until we have 250 responses, whichever comes first. Then don’t forget to come back next Friday for our analysis of the results!

Do you have any comments on this week’s study? Do you know of any other songs with easily confused lyrics? Any other examples of miscommunication, whether in song or in conversation? Let us know in the comments.


  1. #1 kay
    August 25, 2006

    About that first clip (yes, a gulity pleasure in our household as well), it depends on when in the show it is being played. It actually changes when the contestants are doing their “dance for their lives” individual dances. My Husband and I didn’t recognize it at first (ah, the downside to top-down processing), but by the third show we cracked up at the slight change in phrasing.

  2. #2 Corby
    August 25, 2006

    How about that Bruce Springsteen song done by Manfred MannS Earth Band: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up blah blah blah blah rumor in the night”? I had to have heard this song 100 times in my life, and I still can’t pick out the middle words as something resembling the “illusions” that it is purported to say…

  3. #3 Dave Munger
    August 25, 2006

    Corby: I want to say “wrapped up like a deuce, another rumor in the night,” but I have a feeling that’s wrong.

    Kay: I think I’ve heard that second version, too. This is definitely the first version.

  4. #4 magista
    August 25, 2006

    It’s actually “revved up like a deuce, another runner inthe night”, at least according to Thank goodness for Google, with which even a tiny portion of the correct lyrics will get you an answer. Of course, this being teh intarwebs, they could be wrong too.

    Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” always had a line that sounded to me like “don’t make the play with the sky eight shades of lonely”, when it was really “don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no”.

    Yeah. Somebody teach these guys to enunciate.

  5. #5 igor eduardo kupfer
    August 26, 2006

    When I was a kid and the Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust” was first hitting the airwaves, I swore up and down that the lyrics were actually “Another one bites the doctor.”

    My buddy still tells the story of the day he walked inocently into a record store when he was a kid, and asked the clerk for another one, by Seddust. Seddust, you see, had apperently had a previous hit, and my friend was asking for the followup record, about which he’d heard so much on the radio.

  6. #6 Dave Group
    August 26, 2006

    Some years ago somebody actually put out a book full of examples of misheard song lyrics. Hendrix’s “scuse me while I kiss the sky” was heard by some as “scuse me while I kiss this guy.” Then, of course, there are the backward satanic messages in songs controversy, and the numerous “Paul is dead” messages in Beatles songs. And Wilson Bryan Key of Subliminal Seduction infamy claimed that Blue Suede’s cover of “Hooked on a Feeling” had a backing chorus that changed gradually from “ooga chuka” to “who got sucked off.”

  7. #7 Michael Bach
    August 27, 2006

    Compared with attempts to create culturally neutral tests, this is the opposite ;-): for a non-native speaker, this is just close to impossible. Not just because of the words & pronouncation, but also because of the cultural (should one call TV culture? 😉 allusions.

    All the same: fun. And also an alleviation that you native speakers have problems understanding the lyrics as well…

    Finally: often it doesn’t seem to be worth it, no?

  8. #8 Alan Kellogg
    August 27, 2006

    Lyrics? There were lyrics? The second sample had grunting, but danged if I heard any lyrics.

  9. #9 Jenny
    August 28, 2006
  10. #10 Dave Munger
    August 28, 2006

    Thanks, Jenny! Apparently I’m not the only one who heard “bites the doctor!

  11. #11 steve
    August 29, 2006

    I always thought that Led Zeppelin song said “Living, Loving, like a walnut” instead of “Living, Loving, Like I Wanna.”

  12. #12 Bob Smith
    August 30, 2006

    I got to the survey page and realized I had to download Quicktime.

    By the time I had done so, the friggin survey shut down.

    I hate it when that happens/

  13. #13 Dave Munger
    August 31, 2006

    Bob, I’ve reopened the survey, just for you. Actually it should still have been open at 11:39 when you posted, so perhaps there’s something else going on with your browser. At any rate, anyone who wants can participate until 11:59 tonight (or at least until we get 250 responses, which based on current trends, seems unlikely).

    The music clips are actually just MP3 files, which you could download directly and play with any MP3 player. So if your browser is not playing nice and you *really* want to participate, here are the direct links to the clips:

    First clip

    Second clip

  14. #14 Bob Smith
    August 31, 2006

    Thanks Dave, now I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

    Oh, and Steve, the Zeppelin song is “living, loving, she’s just a women”.

  15. #15 lindsey
    August 31, 2006

    Misheard lyrics are mondegreens, of course, ( and people experience these outside of music as well. Bart Simpson has a wonderful version of the Pledge of Allegiance!

  16. #16 Gilad ravid
    September 16, 2006

    the site record exactly this phenomena. for every song every user can describe the line of song he misunderstand, the way he understand the line, the moment he discover it and at what age it happen. Only Hebrew readers will be able to read it the most mistken song have 42 differents versions.

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