When I was a teen, I once said to my mother, “I think I’ll put a banana in my ear.”
“Why?” she asked, incredulous.
“Because if anyone says ‘Why do you have a banana in your ear?’ I can say, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve got a banana in my ear.'”
Mom laughed and said I had my father’s sense of humor. I don’t know what she meant by that, because Dad never told those kinds of jokes.
Later in life I learned that there is such a thing as a “hearing banana.” It’s what results when you have a hearing test that produces an “audiogram.” If your hearing is good, the chart is shaped like a recognizable banana. If your hearing is wonky, so is the banana.
I think the hearing banana must be involved in what are called “mondegreens,” though hardly anyone knows that’s the name for them or where it comes from. A mondegreen is a misheard song lyric that produces an unexpectedly comical result. The term was coined by a woman who misheard the words in a Scottish ballad. The song really said, “and laid him on the green,” but she heard “Lady Mondegreen.”
Perhaps the two best known of these hearing mishaps are “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy,” by Jimi Hendrix. Well, and all the little children who sing, “Stand beside her/and guide her/through the night with the light from a bulb,” which might be better than the original anyway.
It was a running gag on the TV sitcom Dharma and Greg that the character Greg misheard (and mis-sang) various song lyrics. Two of my favorites were “Got a black magic woman/and she’s tryin’ to take a pebble outta me” and “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone/I can see all the popsicles in my way.”
Working in a place where there is canned music playing can spawn mondegreens like crazy. A friend of mine who works in a retail establishment swore he heard a song that went, “I want the royal gravy. I want the royal gravy. I want the royal gravy. Give it to me.” There was another one that he heard as, “Do you want an egg?”
Being a brave sort, he asked his coworkers what the song lyrics really were. They were, respectively, “I want the good news, baby” and “Do you want to dance?”
I suppose I shouldn’t make fun of this guy. When you’re working in a large store filled with bustling customers, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what someone right next to you is saying, much less something that’s coming over the loudspeaker.
And it may be that my friend just gets hungry at work and that’s why he hears songs about gravy and eggs. Or maybe he goes to work with a banana in his ear.
But the most likely explanation is that his hearing banana looks more like a kumquat or a coconut or something.
Or it could be there’s nothing wrong with him at all.
After all, “egg” does sound a lot like “dance.” Anyone could make that mistake.