Choral group given £60,000 to investigate science behind misheard song lyrics

The Wellcome Trust finances investigation into the technicalities of a mondegreen

Choral group given £60,000 to investigate science behind misheard song lyrics

Photo: Sukita

The Wellcome Trust has given £60,000 to The Clerks choral ensemble to explore the science behind misheard lyrics.

The project will be called Tales from Babel: Musical Adventures in the Science of Hearing and will see the choral ensemble speaking to members of the public in the UK and trying to establish why they can understand some song lyrics and not others. The research aims to aid the Trust's understanding of music perception among the hearing-impaired.

Speaking to The Times, Edward Wickham, director of The Clerks, said audience members will listen to the ensemble sing different lines simultaneously, using an electronic handset to record which words they can hear clearly and which lines they cannot.

Prior to experimenting with the public, the Wellcome Trust has conducted a survey into the most commonly misheard song lyrics in popular music, discovering songs by David Bowie and Oasis among the most commonly misunderstood.

The line "Making love with his ego" on David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust', was heard as "Making love to a seagull" by some while some believed the "You’re gonna be the one that saves me" line in Oasis' hit 'Wonderwall' was actually "You’re gonna be the one at Sainsbury’s."

A misheard song lyric is known as a 'mondegreen', so called in homage to the mishearing of the words "laid him on the green" as "Lady Mondegreen" in a Scottish ballad.

What's Your Funniest Misheard Song Lyric?

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