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Meet The Mondegreens

Aug 4, 2017

A mondegreen isn't a trendy salad ingredient, it's a humorously misheard lyric from music or poetry! House musician Jonathan Coulton messes up some familiar songs, and our contestants name the real lyrics he's misheard.

Heard on Kerry Bishé: Halt And Catch Science

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton, here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. Before the break, we met our contestants Ainsley and Shreyas. Our next game is about commonly misheard song lyrics. So if you think my name is Ophira, this is for you.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Let's check in with our contestants. Ainsley, you're also a milliner or hatmaker. So how did you get into that?

AINSLEY ANDERSON: You know, I kind of just fell into it. One of my friends, like...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: ...Saw a Facebook post of a milliner who needed help. And I had the skills. So it worked out.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And are you really into hats yourself?

ANDERSON: I don't ever wear them just because I get really bad hat hair.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

ANDERSON: But I love them.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: I encourage everyone else to wear them.

EISENBERG: That's good. You have an objective relationship with the hat.

ANDERSON: Exactly.

EISENBERG: That's good. Shreyas, you spent a summer in a research lab in Atlanta, catching pigeons.

SHREYAS VANGALA: Yeah. So it was for a disease ecology study. And we were doing a survey for, like, Newcastle disease. So we were seeing how much sicker pigeons are in a city compared to, like, a rural setting. So...

EISENBERG: And do you know the answer to that?

VANGALA: I left before the study was finished.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

VANGALA: But I found out they found, like, a way more efficient way of catching the pigeons. They didn't give us a net gun, but, apparently, they bought one after I left. So...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: So you were just running with a net?

VANGALA: Yeah, it was me and another guy. It was a net about the length of a stage.

(LAUGHTER)

VANGALA: And, you know, we'd throw some corn out there. And we found out they like French fries better...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

VANGALA: ...In the city. So just me and this...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) The city pigeons...

VANGALA: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Like French fries.

VANGALA: Surprised? Yeah, so, eventually, it was French fries. And me and this other guy would have the net. And we'd just kind of run at them and catch, like, one of 100, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It's a tough gig. It's a tough gig.

(LAUGHTER)

VANGALA: Super tough gig.

EISENBERG: So this is a musical game called Meet the Mondegreens. Puzzle guru Art Chung, can you remind us what a mondegreen is, please?

ART CHUNG: The word mondegreen refers to a comedic mishearing of a phrase from music or poetry. According to Merriam-Webster, it comes from a line in a Scottish ballad, laid him on the green, which is misheard as Lady Mondegreen, right, Jonathan?

COULTON: That's right, guzzle poo-poo Murk Flung (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: I'll sing you part of a song, but some of the lyrics have been replaced by a mondegreen. Just buzz in and tell me what the original lyrics are supposed to be.

EISENBERG: Shreyas, you won the last game. So you win this, and you're in the final round. Ainsley, you have to win this, or you have to yell, excuse me while I kiss this guy and then lay a wet one on Jonathan Coulton. And he's married.

COULTON: That's right. Look out.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Doesn't count if you do it on the radio, right?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah, it doesn't...

COULTON: First rule of marriage.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right. Here's your first one. (Singing) She's got a chicken pot pie. She's got a chicken pot pie. She's got a chicken pot pie. She don't care.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ainsley.

ANDERSON: Ticket to ride?

COULTON: Ticket to ride is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That's "Ticket To Ride" by the Beatles, of course.

EISENBERG: I don't care when I have a chicken pot pie, man.

COULTON: You don't care about anything.

EISENBERG: Just time and everything else disappears.

COULTON: It's all gravy.

EISENBERG: Yeah, one of - just me and a CPP.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Yeah, you know me.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Here's your next one. (Singing) Hold me closer, Tony Danza. Count the headlights on the highway.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ainsley.

ANDERSON: Tiny dancer?

COULTON: Tiny Dancer is a much better lyric.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Elton John, of course. (Singing) I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shreyas.

VANGALA: "I Can See Clearly Now?" The rain is gone?

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

COULTON: You got it. You got it. That's Johnny Nash. Here we go. (Singing) This love has taken its toll on me. She said goodbye to Mary Tyler Moore.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ainsley.

ANDERSON: Too many times before?

COULTON: Yes, that's right.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: It's "This Love" by Maroon 5.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Right. Of course, we all know that song's actually about Betty White.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: (Singing) I believe in marigolds. Where you from, you sexy thing?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ainsley.

ANDERSON: I believe in miracles?

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON: What was the wrong lyric?

COULTON: What was the wrong lyric? Maybe that's a better game. I sang, I believe in marigolds. Nobody's wrong. Nobody's wrong. They're both good.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Here we go. (Singing) Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you. You answer quite slowly. A girl with colitis goes by.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Ainsley.

ANDERSON: Kaleidoscope eyes.

COULTON: Yeah, that's right.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: She may or may not have colitis. They don't say in the song.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But she's not going to go by. She's going to be running if she...

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: ...She has colitis.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That was another Beatles song. This is your last clue. (Singing) I said, it's too late to order fries.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: (Singing) It's too late.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Shreyas.

VANGALA: Apologize.

COULTON: Apologize. That's right.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That's One Republic. Art Chung, how did our contestants do?

CHUNG: Well done, Ainsley. You won that game.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: You each won a game, so it's time for a quick game three. I'll give you a category, and you'll go back and forth naming things that fall into that category. The first contestant to mess up will be eliminated. Buzz in to answer first. Here's your category - name the six theatrically released Pixar feature film sequels and prequels as of July 2017.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

CHUNG: Shreyas, you're first.

VANGALA: "Cars 2."

CHUNG: "Cars 2" is correct. Ainsley.

ANDERSON: "Cars 3."

CHUNG: Good guess.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: Shreyas.

VANGALA: "Toy Story 2."

CHUNG: Correct. Ainsley.

ANDERSON: "Toy Story 3."

CHUNG: Correct.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: Two more. Shreyas.

VANGALA: "Finding Dory."

CHUNG: That is correct. Ainsley. Last one.

ANDERSON: "Down On The Ground."

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: I'm sorry. That's incorrect. The last one was "Monsters University." That means Shreyas, congratulations. You're headed to the final round.

(SOUNDBITE OF X-RAY SPEX SONG, "GERM FREE ADOLESCENTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.