Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smells like Both Teen Spirit and a Mondegreen

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smells like Both Teen Spirit and a Mondegreen

Article excerpt

"Here we are now, in containers."

Yes! This is your song. You sing it dramatically in the shower, imagining yourself as Kurt Cobain. Now it's blaring through the speakers.


"... IN CONTAINERS! I feel stupid and contagious!"

The people around you give you looks. There are snickers.

"Dude. It's 'Here we are now, ENTERTAIN US.' "

These lyrics, courtesy of Nirvana, are an example of a "mondegreen," that is, a word or phrase that results from a mishearing, oftentimes in reference to song lyrics.

As both an intense analyzer of lyrics and a very fallible human, I fall prey to mondegreens all the time, ending up crushed that the string of words I attributed such deep meaning to sounds comically nonsensical to everyone else. Admittedly, I sometimes even find myself defending my misinterpretations as somehow better than the original.

Take the Nirvana example again. Apparently, a whole slew of people on the Internet have made the "in containers" mistake. Learning this, I was amused and found myself not only hearing it their way, but also defending this new version.

After all, "entertain us" is so straightforward, so blatantly tied to the song's title. "In containers" is obtuse and thus potentially symbolic. Do we "box ourselves in" too much in life? Is it because we're stupid and/or contagious?

Alternately, these lyrics can be interpreted literally. Houses, offices, they're all containers of sorts for our bodies. Through this lens, the apathetic teen anthem takes on a removed and almost intellectualized perspective regarding our mundane earthly existence. Now, it becomes somewhat Talking Heads-esque.

"And you may find yourself, in a container!"

Other commonly misheard classics include Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising. …

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