Ever since the first caveman uttered the first “ug,” humans have been both assisted and undermined by communication.
Our most valuable strength and our most ruinous weakness, communication is as much a part of being human as breathing.
And as such, it is continually changing. We are always looking for new, better, and more creative ways to communicate with each other.
Cave drawings, letters, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, telephones, Facebook, interpretive dance … well, you get the idea.
Yet, despite all of our advances, miscommunication is still a problem.
We can send men to the moon, call someone on the other side of the planet, and access all the world’s knowledge at the click of a button … but, somehow, when we order large fries, we still end up receiving a small.
Anyone who has ever played the “telephone game” knows that, even though humans are good at many things, we are consistently terrible listeners.
Though that is not to say, of course, that we don’t try.
Perhaps that’s why we are always inventing new ways to communicate. Maybe, just maybe, if we try hard enough and come up with some new gadget, we’ll be able to overcome human nature.
Human nature tends to win, especially with communication.
After all, miscommunication happens every day. It can be frustrating, confusing, hurtful … or funny.
And misheard song lyrics are perhaps the best example of just that.
One such instance happened with my brother several years ago. It was Christmas time, and we were listening to the usual holiday tunes on our way home from school. “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins was playing, and my mom, brother, and I were silently listening.
Suddenly, my brother spoke: “Mom?”
“Why does he want to celebrate meatballs?”
Needless to say, since that time, a Christmas hasn’t passed that we don’t tease my brother.
But he is not the only one guilty of mishearing lyrics. In fact, it happens so often, you’d almost think we, as a culture, purposely try to misunderstand songs. Here are some other common ones:
• In Elton John’s “Your Song,” the line “If I was a sculptor, but then again no,” has been heard as: “If I was a skeleton, but then again, gnome.”
• Then, rather than “Hold me closer, tiny dancer,” Elton John is often misheard as singing: “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”
• And in yet another Elton John song, “Rocket Man,” the line “burning out his fuse up here alone” has been misheard in a variety of ways, including “burning up his shoes with aerosol,” “burning up the streets of Babylon,” “girl your diamond shoes are very long,” “turning out his tunes for everyone,” and many, many more.
• The Rolling Stone’s song which goes “I’ll never be your beast of burden” has been heard as “I’ll never leave your pizza burnin’.”
• In Toto’s song “Africa,” instead of hearing, “I bless the rains down in Africa,” many people hear, “I left my brains down in Africa.”
• The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” is often heard as “rock the cat box.”
• Rather than “there’s a bad moon on the rise,” many people hear the Creedence Clearwater Revival song as “there’s a bathroom on the right.”
• In The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” many people hear the lyrics as “Then I saw her face,/ Now I’m gonna leave her.”
• And finally, in U2’s “Mysterious Ways,” the line “She moves in mysterious ways” has been misheard as “Shamu, the mysterious whale.”
So what does all this miscommunication mean?
Well, besides the fact that we obviously hate burnt pizza and like knowing where the closest bathroom is, I think it means that overall, humans are a work in progress. We’re still fine-tuning some of our skills, especially when it comes to communication.
But I can’t help but see that as something wonderful. If we still have a capacity for changing, that means, to me, that we have a chance for bettering.
And, of course, we can always have a few laughs along the way.
Sarah Allen may be reached at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.