Gotta Black Magic Marker

Got a black magic marker,
Got a black magic marker,
I got a black magic marker not a green one I see,
I got a black magic marker and I’m gonna get black marker all over me.

About a dozen lifetimes ago, I was at a party when a reasonably inebriated friend started singing those very lyrics. Or, ones like them as far as I can recall. He was trying to be funny, of course. He knew those weren’t the right lyrics. But how many times have we misheard the lyrics to a classic song?

Hey kids, shake the blues forever

Yes, just about a month ago I discovered that for all these years I was singing the beginning of Bennie and the Jets wrong. The right line is, “Hey, kids, shake it loose together.” This sort of thing is properly called a “mondegreen.” Wikipedia explains it like this:

In a 1954 essay in Harper’s Magazine, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the last line of the first stanza from the seventeenth-century ballad “The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray“. She wrote:

When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The correct fourth line is, “And laid him on the green”. Wright explained the need for a new term:

“The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original.”

Mondegreens happen when we mishear something that just doesn’t make sense. They’re especially common in rock music since singers intentionally slur words.

Top ten mondegreens

You have to hand it to the folks at WatchMojo. They put out a huge amount of content and most of it is totally ad-free. I’m not sure how they make their money, but apparently they do because they’re still around. This video dates back to 2013, when they explored common mondegreens including “Hold me close, young Tony Danza” and “There’s a bathroom on the right.” These are classic mispronounciations.

There are others but they’re not safe for work

It seems like there’s a whole subgenre of mispronounced lyrics that include profanity. I had the idea for this article and I found several videos that just wouldn’t have matched the family-friendly nature of this video.

What are your favorite mondegreens, intentional or unintentional? Leave a comment here or on one of our social channels!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.