When hearing someone sing, our brains can sometimes struggle to decipher what precise words or phrases we're hearing. This is hardly helped by the fact that most of the time, song lyrics don't form entirely conventional sentences either. This can create a phenomenon known as "mondegreen,” a term coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954, who defined it as “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing especially of something recited or sung.”
According to a new study by Wordfinder, there's a number of song lyrics that we all commonly mishear.
By presenting over 1000 Americans snippets of various tracks, the online dictionary and word hub challenged the participants to guess the lyrics by showing them a choice of four phrases.
The results showed that the most commonly misheard song was Metallica's Enter Sandman, with 70 percent of listeners mishearing the lyrics 'Exit light / Enter night'. Instead, they believed the words were 'Eggs and light / End all nights'. In fact, according to the report, Enter Sandman was mostly misheard by individuals of Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.
Other highly misinterpreted songs included The Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand (with 52% of participants hearing the lyrics incorrectly), Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (49%), Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds (46%), Elton John's Bennie & The Jets (38%) and more.
Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit was also included, with another half of all participants not understanding the lyrics. During the chorus, as the late frontman Kurt Cobain sings 'With the lights out, it's less dangerous / Here we are now, entertain us' participants believed the lyrics to be 'With the lights out, it's Las Vegas / Hear me all now, entertainers', which is er...not correct!
It wasn't just rock and metal songs that were misunderstood however, the music of folk, pop, hip-hop/rap, EDM and R&B artists also all contained lyrics that were hard to decipher. Interestingly, The Rolling Stones' frontman Mick Jagger was named the hardest-to-understand artist along with rapper Young Thug.
Check out the full study over on Wordfinder.