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August 09, 2010

Misheard Song Lyrics - 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

I like to use songs and music to teach English. Movement and rhythm add to the learning experience. Sometimes however, the words can be a little hard...

...to hear correctly.

As students try to sing along with a tune they like, they do their best to follow along with words - or sometimes just sounds - that seem to work.

Finding a word that fits and makes sense can be difficult - even for those of us who grew up with English - and popular music.

I had a student several years ago that liked the song "Cheek to cheek" written by Irving Berlin, but either she couldn't hear it clearly or she just didn't know the words.

I had to explain by sign language what "cheek" meant - which is the heart of the song - that two dancers are dancing literally "cheek to cheek". The song, of course, makes much more sense and the story is much easier to follow, given this little piece of information.

There are several books out that compile misheard lyrics. It can be quite hilarious to see how even native speakers of English can scramble and misunderstand song lyrics.

One of the most famous misheard line from a song is from Jimi Hendrix who sang "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky" as an introduction to a guitar solo. Many listeners thought he said "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy".

Listening to and deciphering song lyrics can be an enjoyable - and culturally educational - experience.

I recommend some 1960s Bob Dylan for a challenging exploration of the limits of the English language.

For a recent article check out this article from GOOD magazine http://www.good.is/post/your-love-is-like-bad-venison/.

On a related note, I always urge my students to step out and pursue their passions. I have just recently had the opportunity to pursue one of my longtime passions. I'll be hosting an online radio program. You can hear my voice - and some of my stories about music - at tacoma.fm http://www.tacoma.fm/tfmdjssaturday.php. My program is on from 10pm to 2 am (Pacific Standard time) Saturday evening.

I hope you can listen. Please send me a note and let me know what you think.

We are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing, constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foreign foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at August 9, 2010 11:31 PM

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