The Donzerly Light

During a gathering at my house not too long ago, my sister Laura mentioned how as a kid she often wondered what a “donzerly” light looked like, having always heard the first line of our national anthem as “Oh say can you see, by the donzerly light…”

“I always imagined it to be some sort of amazingly beautiful kind of illumination,” she told us, “and I was so disappointed when I learned the truth about the lyric.”

a donzerly light

Misheard lyrics are officially called “mondegreens,” the term having been coined by American writer Sylvia Wright in 1954 after mishearing the line “layd him on the green” from an English poem as “Lady Mondegreen.” The most famous mondegreen of my generation, of course, is the Jimi Hendrix line “s’cuz me while I kiss the sky” being heard as, “s’cuz me while I kiss this guy.”

After Laura told us her story, this got the rest of us talking about our own misheard lyrics. My niece Renée said she was always confused and disturbed as a child by the Manfred Mann line “I’m hurt, she’s mad, wedding bells are gonna chime.” “It just didn’t make any sense!” she said. “Why would they get married if that were the case?”

My wife Robin’s favorite mondegreen is the Young Rascals’ lyric, “…you and me and Leslie” (aka “you and me endlessly”). And once she met me, that lyric became what Robin would sing to our dog, Ziggy, and it eventually became “our song”—because, let’s face it; this is a far better lyric than the original, right?

you and me and Leslie

My friend and fellow mystery author Jane Lasswell Hoff had this to add to our list, from “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: “you’ll go down and kiss Dory.” Why? she wondered? And who is this Dory character? (Cleary the makers of Finding Nemo missed a big chance here.)

Adding to her mishearing of patriotic lines, Laura told us she also was always confused as a kid as to why on earth we were pledging allegiance to the Republic of Wichistan. Is that a place in Eastern Europe? And why do we care so much about them?

the mighty Republic of Wichistan


Okay, readers, now it’s your turn: What lyrics or lines have you misheard over the years?

37 thoughts on “The Donzerly Light

  1. My absolute favorite is from my daughter, Ali. She was just 5. I had just met my wife, Kathy. Dream Weaver came on and Ali INSISTED it was Dream Beaver. Not the thing to belt out to a bunch of lesbians in a car! Kathy sprayed her coffee on my windshield and I just tried to keep the car on the road. Hey… for better or for worse! LOL!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Sorry for the coffee spray, Leslie. It wasn’t fun cleaning it from my car either. lol. Ali still sings it that way just to add some comic relief to my world! That girl-child-woman!

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  2. I flashed on the classic line from a Creedence song that sounds like, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” (“There’s a bad moon on the rise.”) Always good to know where those bathrooms are!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. The ever-classic “there’s a bathroom on the right” mentioned above by CCR. There’s another one that bamboozled me for years and I only recently learned the correct lyrics – but it’s early and I haven’t had enough caffeine yet so I can’t drag it out of my brain.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. It was Fall-out Boy and “Sugar We’re Going Down.” The actual lyric is:

        “We’re going down, down in an earlier round
        And sugar, we’re going down swinging
        I’ll be your number one with a bullet
        A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it”

        I cannot remember what I thought it was, but it was definitely not that and I think it was something not appropriate for this blog. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  4. These are great! A perfect Monday post.
    I hate to admit this one.
    Elton John and ‘Bennie and the Jets’
    “She’s got electric boobs! An Attitude! B-b-b-b-Bennie and the Jetsssssssssss.”
    No, I don’t mind admitting this. Cause I still think I’m right!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. You and me and Leslie is a lovely refrain — and a cute pic of the three of you!
    As a kid I was confused by several hymns we sang at church. I grew up thinking there was a “bomb” in Gilead.” (Turns out it was “a balm.”) I didn’t know where Gilead was or what the people there had done. But, if God decided to bomb them, I figured He had his reasons!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Yes, love that cute picture of you two & Ziggy!

    What a fun post! Here are a few from me:
    1) Are You Sleeping, Brother John?
    Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
    Brother John, Brother John!
    *Wedding* bells are ringing!

    2) Crocodile Rock
    Me and Susie had so much fun
    Holding hands and skimming stones
    Had a *local* Chevy and a place of my own

    3) “Secret Agent Man” turned into “Secret Asian Man” because, you know, Asian superspy…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lisa, “Hang on Sloopy” isn’t by the Beach Boys, it’s by the McCoys. I know because we have the oldies channel on here all the time. In fact, the song was on just yesterday and I was like, that is a weird nickname for a chick!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. In Beverly Clearly’s Ramona the Pest, on her first day of Kindergarten, Romona asks what a Donzer is. You know, a Donzer lee light. Yep, they’d just sung “The Star Spangled Banner” for the first time.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I love this! Mine would be the Florence and the Machine song where I SWEAR she’s singing “I’m thinking of sexy elephants.” I was stunned when I learned the actual lyric is “such sweet nothings.” I also insist to this day that in “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles are singing, “it’s such a feeling I get high” and NOT “I can’t hide.” And this is a true story: when I did a former of improv called Theatresports, we traveled a lot to Canada where it was created for tournaments. They’d play the anthems of participating countries. One day a fellow improvisor from NY asked a Canadian improvisor, “Why do you stand on God” in your anthem?” To which the Canadian replied – politely, of course – “We stand on GUARD.”

    My friend had an hilarious mondegreen. For years, she thought the lyric in “Angel of the Morning” was ‘Just brush my teeth before you leave me.” I thought it was “just catch my dream.” We still don’t know the real words.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I thought this was going to be a Beverly Clearly post, Leslie, because Ramona thought it was a “donzerly light” too!

    I have a million of these that I’ve discovered since I became an adult of a certain age who listens to an oldies station. “Ohmygosh … *that’s* what they’ve been singing all these years? Why did nobody tell me!” But as a little kid, there was a hymn about “gladly the cross I bear” which I heard as “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.”

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Ooch my side!! I love these. I used to have a Misheard Lyric of the Day calendar, which was not only hilarious, but super relatable.

    I have more than I can count, but here are a few faves:

    “How’s about a date?” Billy Idol’s Eyes Without a Face
    “Big ol’ Jan in a lineup” Steve Miller Band’s Jet Airliner
    “Sugar…you’re sweet” Maroon 5’s Sugar

    There’s actually a website called Kiss This Guy where you can input your own misheard lyrics. There are some great ones!!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’m laughing so hard right now–these are fabulous!

    Duran Duran, “New Moon on Monday”

    New moon on Monday
    and go five days through the night
    I slayed the cold rain
    with a lonely saddle ride

    (correct:
    New moon on Monday
    And a fire dance through the night
    I stayed the cold day
    With a lonely satellite)

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  12. Leslie. Not sure this is a lyric, but to learn ABCs we’d recite all the letters. Can you hear the tune? I always got confused in the middle because I thought ELLOMENOPEE was one letter. Instead of L M N O P. How dumb was I in first grade? Bwahaha

    Liked by 1 person

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