Kids learning the national anthem could be forgiven for hearing the lyric “by the dawnzer lee light”—even though the latter doesn’t make any sense, in any language. The actual line is “by the dawn’s early light.” Author Beverly Cleary immortalized this mistake in her children’s book Ramona the Pest.
Misheard lyrics are known as mondegreens, a term that dates back to 1954. American author Sylvia Wright coined it in Harper’s Magazine while recounting a ballad that had confounded her when she was a child.
But this misfiring of the connections between the ears and the brain can plague anyone of any age. It’s been the subject of both academic study and serious journalism. Researchers found that people sing the “wrong” words to a song due to an illusion of sound; it could indicate what we hope to hear, as reported by New York Magazine.
If nothing else, mondegreens are almost always funny (if not a bit embarrassing), so Stacker compiled a list of some of the most humorous misheard lyrics from popular music over the last 70 years. To qualify its popularity, each song on this list had to spend time on the Billboard Hot 100 chart—and many became #1 hits. This collection comes from pop culture references, news articles, music publications, social media posts, and community forums on the internet.
Misheard Lyrics From Iconic Pop Songs
Gallery Credit: Stacker