For years I thought Jimi Hendrix in the song Purple Haze said, ‘Excuse me while I kiss this guy’ when in fact it was the much less obvious ‘while I kiss the sky.’ I’m not alone- a survey last year showed that this was the second most misheard song lyric. The first being from REM’s Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight. You probably thought Michael Stipe sings ‘Calling Jamaica’- I know I did- whereas in fact he says very quickly ‘Call me when you try to wake her.’
By the way, did you know the Sidewinder referred to in the song is an old fashioned telephone, so called because it has a coiled cord like a Sidewinder snake? Probably not. Since none of us knew what the song was about anyway, I don’t think we can be blamed for getting the words wrong.
When you’re in business, clarity is vital, as it’s very easy to upset a customer with a wrong impression. I remember when I worked at a theatre, I received a complaint from a customer about the bad language used by the Fairy Godmother in apparently criticising the orchestra. I was puzzled, so I took a further look at the pantomime and heard the Fairy actually say, ‘What a funky band!’
It’s so easy to mishear what someone says. I still cringe at the time I was on the phone to my health insurance company about my hernia. ‘What size is it?’ said the woman on the other end of the phone. My mind raced over possibilities like a golf ball (too big) or a marble (too small) when the image of a quail’s egg popped into my head. I have no idea why- I don’t eat or even like quail’s eggs- and as soon as I said it I realised I sounded like the most pretentious snob. All the worse when she responded, ‘No, what side is it?’
These thoughts about mishearing came to me because of yet another thing I misheard last week. To give a bit of background, Winchester, where we are located, has a few problems with late night drunkenness, which is bad for our image and can be a physical threat to late night revellers. The presence of adults is known to calm situations down.
So I was pleased when one of our young employees at Your Life Your Style told me how she came out of a club late one night to be offered a cup of tea by some Christians. I thought she added ‘And Jews had coffee.’ Before I dwelt too long on the prospect of some wonderful multi-faith activity in which perhaps the Muslims were there too handing out cocoa, I realised she actually said, ‘and juice and coffee.’
It reminds me of a humorous greetings card I saw in which the wife is saying, ‘You only hear what you want to hear’ to which the husband responds, ‘Thanks I’ll have a beer.’
This article first appeared on the Southern Daily Echo website also at blogger.com