Monday, September 27, 2010

There's a Warm Wind Blowing the Stars Around

A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio when England Dan and John Ford Coley's "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" came on. I was singing along with the lyrics as best I could (Dan and Tim say I have "chronic lyricosis"), and got to my favorite line: "There's a warm wind blowing the stars around." I've always loved that line and even wished I'd written it myself. Can't you just imagine standing there with your true love, looking up into a nighttime sky, and seeing the stars gently skittering across the sky, pushed by a warm summer breeze? Isn't it romantic?

I found myself humming the song all morning, and that afternoon I went on the Internet to look at the lyrics. OH NO! The line I'd been loving and singing for ages wasn't there. Instead it read, "There's a warm wind blowing, the stars are out." Now, be honest with me. Don't you think that line is lame, compared to mine?

I was thinking about it again, today, and thought I'd do some research to see if anyone else had misheard that line, and found out, according to a site called AmiRight, that I wasn't alone. (If you go there, my version of the lyric is the third one down on the page).

But then I found a really fascinating web page, from which I learned that there is actually a word for this kind of faux pas: it's called a mondegreen. According to that site, a mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase, such as a line in a poem or song, in a way that gives it a new meaning. As I kept reading, I learned about the derivation of the term "mondagreen," and had a good laugh over it! Here are a few snippets directly from the web page (

American writer Sylvia Write coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondagreen," published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954. . . In the essay, Wright described how, as a young girl, she misheard the final line of the first stanza from the 17th-century ballad "The Bonny Earl O'Moray." She wrote:

"When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me . . . 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."
Read it again, out loud. Now you've got it! The actual third and fourth lines were "They hae slain the Earl O'Moray, And laid him on the green." From this experience, Write coined the term mondagreen for any misheard line or lyric that results in a new and different (and often improved) meaning.

There are some mondagreens that are so common that they've become part of our folk lore, such as "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear" ( "Gladly the cross I'd bear") and "There's a bathroom on the right" ("There's a bad moon on the rise").

I'm trying to decide whether learning about mondagreens and the delightful etymology of the word has been a fair trade-off for having lost my favorite lyric from "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight." I'll have to think on that for awhile.

[As a side note, while we're talking about singing songs along with the radio, I think I'll share something I've always secretly wished for. In my dream, I'm alone in the car, sitting at a stop light, singing my heart out to, oh . . . say Uncle Kracker ("All you know is when I'm with you I make you free, and swim through your veins like a fish in the sea"), when I look over at the car next to me, make eye contact with the driver, and we both realize we're singing along to the same song on the same station. Wouldn't that put a smile on your face? So far it's not happened.]


betty said...

Linda, Thanx for the research. I feel so enriched to have learned a new word first thing this morning (or was that "thirsty tis warning"?).

Linda said...

Oh, it's awfully early in the morning to be that sharp, Betty!

Grammajo said...

Your version is best -- and most romantic.

Anonymous said...

Yup...some versions are best left as we THINK they are. My favorite is that old hymn Bringing in the Sheets.

Thanks for all that info!



Anonymous said...

Everyone hears it wrong:

England Dan said...

Perfect photo for that lyric!

Indeed I just searched online for that very lyric just now, having heard this old classic on the radio yesterday and humming it nostalgically .. until today!

I too was shocked to find that was a mondegreen, though I am still skeptical, as I see many sites showing either alternate lyrics..

So for we romanticists, the warm wind will always blow the stars around.. And I'm not talkin' 'bout the linen!

Anonymous said...

Good news Linda, you were right after all

Watch Dan sing the song here (a country and Western version) and it's clearly "stars around", not "stars are out"

Anonymous said...

And just to put this one right to bed and seal the deal, here's a comment off John Ford Coley's facebook page (the bloke who's been singing the song for 40 years.

"This is so funny. How many lyrics in this song are misunderstood. The lyrics are: There's a warm wind blowing the stars AROUND. Not the stars are out."