Friday, August 25, 2006


Have you heard about Shaft? He's a carpet-cleaning man, and no one understands him but his woman.
I was talkin’ ‘bout Shaft, but my then-5-year-old self wasn’t aware that John Shaft’s woman knew not only her man but the correct song lyrics and would describe him as "a complicated man," rather than an employee of Stanley Steemer.
Faulty hearing can turn out highly amusing interpretations. So prevalent are such gaffes that the Internet has countless sites devoted to the subject, most notably and The latter borrows its name from the widely misheard line, "’Scuse me while I kiss the sky," in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.
These mishearings are known as "mondegreens," a term writer Sylvia Wright coined from her own childhood misunderstanding of the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray. What she heard was, "They hae slay the Earl of Murray and Lady Mondegreen," when what they’d actually done to the earl was "lay him on the green."
In the early ‘70s, when Cher still had all her original parts (including Sonny), she went to No. 1 with Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, a mondegreen smorgasbord for the aurally challenged:
What it says: Gypsies, tramps, and thieves … [b]ut every night, all the men would come around and lay their money down.
What they heard: Gypsies, chimpanzees ... [b]ut every night, all the men would come around and lay their monkey down.
What it says: I was born in the wagon of a traveling show.
What they heard: I was bored in the wagon of a trampoline show.
The Temptations’ Papa was a Rolling Stone was mondegreened as the result of a homophone – words that sound alike but are spelled differently.
What it says: When he died, all he left us was alone.
What they heard: When he died, all he left us was a loan. (Perhaps Papa’s unpaid debts led to his untimely demise.)
Merilee Rush had a hit with Angel in the Morning in the ‘60s; the song has since been re-popularized by country-pop singer Juice Newton in 1981 and reggae star Shaggy five years ago. Each version was popular, but that didn’t prevent the perpetual mondegreening of "Touch my cheek before you leave me" to "Brush my teeth before you leave me." (Despite its inaccuracy, the latter is good advice for avoiding the dreaded morning breath.)
A friend of mine once thought the chorus of Soul Man (originally by Sam & Dave, revived by The Blues Brothers) proclaimed, "I was soooo mad!" (Perhaps The Soul Man was experiencing residual anger from being "brought up on a side street.") Another pal’s bad hearing turned Van Halen’s Panama into Padded Bra. Yet another buddy misheard Bruce Springsteen’s Tenth Avenue Freezeout as "Tell the devil I’m in the freezer aisle." (Just in case ol’ Lucifer was looking for some brimstone-flavored ice cream.)
Even when the word-butchering is intentional, the results can be entertaining. For instance, the Four Tops had a hit that proclaimed, "Ain’t no woman like the one I got!" Thanks to my nephews’ twisted minds, this declaration of love became, "Ain’t no woman like the one I shot!"
I’d offer more funny examples, but I’m tired from writing into the wee hours. So, like Round John Virgin, mother and child, it’s time for me to sleep in heavenly peas.

Friday, August 11, 2006


It’s a pretty good indication that a celebrity’s career has hit the skids when: a) Their name is follows the words VH1: Behind the Music; b) They’re on a 3 a.m. infomercial pimping stepladders for dogs and products with names like Stink-B-Gon; c) They’re constantly mistaken for Gary Coleman, even though they’re female. And Caucasian.
Well, Jaleel White – better known as "Steve Urkel" – isn’t a faded rock star, hasn’t hit the infomercial circuit, and is too tall to be mistaken for Gary Coleman. So where is he? When a star falls out of the public eye, speculations start flying, the usual options being "rehab," "mall security guard" or "dead."
In White’s case, the final option is reputed to be his final destination. The most popular nerd of the last decade allegedly has gone on to that great big Geek Convention in the sky, according to a story currently traveling the email circuit: "Following the cancellation of Family Matters in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character and grew despondent … neighbor and friend Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as ‘a loud bang’ coming from White's Los Angeles apartment," the story reports.
"Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply, ‘Did I do that?’ – a popular catchphrase from the show."
Now hold on, Urkelmaniacs, don’t get your high-water britches in a knot! The story is a hoax – a poorly executed one, at that. For one thing, Family Matters ended in 1998, not 1997. Had the "writer" done a little homework (It’s called fact-checking, nimrod. Look into it.), he/she would know that White recently finished two upcoming films – no easy feat if you’re dead. Unless you’re starring in a remake of Weekend at Bernie’s.
If he’s now a member of the corpse corps, how to explain the blog White maintains for I’ve heard of ghostwriters, but never in the literal sense!
We haven’t seen much of His Urkelness in the last eight years – during which he graduated from UCLA’s film school – but he’s been working quite steadily, including producing/starring in a short-lived UPN sitcom and providing the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Gossip grapevines also report spotting White a couple weeks ago partying with the bunnies at the Playboy Mansion. Eat your heart out, Arnold Horshack!
Fabrications about the demise of young celebrities are nothing new. There was the now-legendary "Paul (McCartney) is Dead" hullabaloo of the late ’60s, and just last year, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder shook hands with the Grim Reaper either during a car accident or a cocaine overdose, depending on the source. When asked if he was aware of the hoax, Heder told a reporter, "Yeah, and apparently it's not true." His film alter ego would have said it better: "Ugh! Freakin’ idiot!"