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Wikimedia Commons/Bryan Dugan

The 10 Most Often Butchered Song Lyrics

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Wikimedia Commons/Bryan Dugan

Don’t believe everything you hear. Particularly if it’s set to music and coming out of the mouth of one of your favorite musicians.

We’ve all been guilty of mishearing—and then repeating—a song lyric on occasion. In fact, it’s so prevalent a problem that there’s actually a word for it: mondegreen, a term coined by writer Sylvia Wright in a 1954 essay, in which she recounted her misunderstanding of the line “and laid him on the green” from “The Bonnie Earl O’Murray” as “Lady Mondegreen.” So here’s a friendly heads-up on the song lyrics that get butchered most often.

1. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix

Misheard Lyric: “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy.”
Actual Lyric: “‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.”

Jimi himself was known to have some fun with what is probably the most widely known mondegreen, often singing the incorrect lyrics on stage—occasionally even accompanied by a mock make-out session. There’s even a Website,, dedicated to collecting user-generated stories of misheard lyrics. 

2. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John

Misheard Lyric: “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”
Actual Lyric: “Hold me closer, tiny dancer.”

In the premiere episode of Friends’ third season, Phoebe Buffay stated what millions of others had also believed when she claimed that the most romantic song ever was “the one that Elton John wrote for that guy on Who’s The Boss… ‘Hold me close, young Tony Danza.’” Typically the line is heard as “Hold me closer, Tony Danza…” so we may need Angela to sort this one out.

3. “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann

Misheard Lyric: “Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night.”
Actual Lyric: “Revved up like a Deuce, another runner in the night.”

It’s difficult to hear this classic rock tune and not imagine the feminine product aisle at Walgreens. In 1993, the first sketch in Canadian comedy group The Vacant Lot’s television series explored the many incorrect renditions of this lyric that exist.

4. “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams

Misheard Lyric: “I got my first real sex dream...”
Actual Lyric: “I got my first real six-string…”

Bryan Adams’ 1984 ode to teenage-dom took on an unintended carnal tone when many listeners misheard the opening lyric, which sounded even more bizarre when considered with the content that followed:

Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it 'til my fingers bled
It was the summer of '69.

5. “Message in a Bottle” by The Police

Misheard Lyric: “A year has passed since I broke my nose.”
Actual Lyric: “A year has passed since I wrote my note.”

In 2008, hearing aid manufacturer Amplifon polled more than 2000 music fans to determine the most often misheard lyrics. Sting’s former band topped the mondegreen chart with two songs; though “Message in a Bottle” made the top 10, the number one song was “When The World is Running Down,” in which "you make the best of what's still around" is understood as "you make the best homemade stew around.”

6. “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” by R.E.M.

Misheard Lyric: “Calling Jamaica.”
Actual Lyric: “Call me when you try to wake her.”

In 2010, the folks at Cerumol Olive Oil Ear Drops conducted their own poll in Britain, which determined that four out of every 10 people have misunderstood the lyrics to a popular song. The main culprit? This ditty from Michael Stipe and his cronies, released on the band’s 1992 album, Automatic for the People. The most unexplainable part might be the three-syllable difference between the real lyrics and the song as it’s popularly heard.

7. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

Misheard Lyric: “It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.”
Actual Lyric: “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.”

Considering the limited amount of clothing that adorned Bon Jovi’s female fans in 1986, when this song was released as the second single from the New Jersey natives’ Slippery When Wet album, the altered line seems somewhat appropriate. 

8. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles

Misheard Lyric: “The girl with colitis goes by.”
Actual Lyric: “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”

The Fab Four were certainly known to get a little psychedelic on occasion. (Witness: I am the walrus… goo goo g'joob!) Few songs reflect their penchant for writing under the influence of drugs better than this song, the title itself a mnemonic for their drug of choice. Though John Lennon claimed the song was inspired by a picture drawn by his son, Julian, Paul McCartney admitted in a 2004 interview with Uncut that it was indeed about drugs. But even a hallucinogen doesn’t explain why poor Lucy’s colon would be inflamed.

9. “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Misheard Lyric: “There’s a bathroom on the right.”
Actual Lyric: “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

Like Jimi Hendrix before him, CCR frontman John Fogerty has played along with this lyrical misunderstanding. On stage, he often delivers the line as if he were giving directions to the lavatory, complete with hand gestures.

10. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna

Misheard Lyric: “Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time.”
Actual Lyric: “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.”

Madonna’s ever-present “Boy Toy” belt buckle probably didn’t do much to help dispel this misheard—and rather laughable—lyric in the artist’s first number-one hit.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]