Naked Americans

When children misinterpret song lyrics, words or expressions, their mistakes are often more descriptive — and certainly more amusing — than what was originally written. Kids hear the darnedest things! And by hearing through the ears of our children we can share their fresh, innocent (and sometimes even more sensible) point-of-view of the world.

I was driving my two younger children to the morning school bus last week. My daughter was in sleepy, adolescent-growth-spurt mode, and my eight year old son was exhilarated from playing outside with the dog. “Dulce and I played a game where we run and shoot!” He chirped. At that moment, the Green Day song “21 Guns” played on the radio. “Here is a song for you and Dulce,” I said. “What?” He replied. I repeated, “This song is for you: ‘21 Guns’.” My boy was astonished, “Guns? I thought it was “21 Goods!” “Oh, that’s much better,” I thought aloud. “21 goods.”

My son’s upbeat misinterpretation of the Green Day song reminded me of other endearing ‘mistakes’ I have heard from my children over the years, and also some that I’ve heard about from other parents. My nephew Jack had a particular talent for ‘rephrasing’, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he is now a teenage actor and comedian. Some of Jack’s more original and memorable inventions: Mean, evil knights (medieval knights); The Entire State Building (The Empire State Building); and my favorite, Naked Americans (Native Americans).

A couple of rephrasing examples from my childhood: “… And deliver us from eagles (The Lord’s Prayer); “Ooof over!” (“Move over”).

And some song lyric adjustments made by kids I know: “Do you believe in love like a bird, like a bird …” (“Do you believe in life after love” – Cher); “I’m not crazy, I’m not little!” (“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired” – Matchbox 20); “Row, row, row your boat gently down the street……….merrily, like a spider’s dream.”

That last one was my nephew Jack again, and his mom (my sister) commented, “I didn’t notice that he was singing it that way until he asked why the song was about a spider’s dream. My older son burst out laughing, and for years we talked about spiders’ dreams.”

I hope you will all please contribute to this list by sharing your child’s (or your own) remembered rephrases in the comment section below. Please attribute them to the child who authored them for posterity’s sake. I know that there are so many more that I have heard from family or friends, but I’ve forgotten because I didn’t write them down!

Children share their innocent perceptions of the world with us when they reinterpret language. Often, though, these precious ‘mistakes’ are quickly corrected by others and too soon erased. Aside from providing a few laughs, I hope this list will help us to enjoy our children’s imaginative spin on life and to appreciate the simple purity of their authentic impressions.


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Linda Hinrichs says:

    My son never wanted to dress up for Halloween and I supported his choice. One day as we were driving to preschool he picked up a pair of sun glasses he found in the car and i casually said, “you look really cool in those glasses Gorby, that can be your costume in the parade if you like, you can be a cool dude” and he beamed. My daughter Karelle who was two or three then piped up, “Gorby’s going to be Cold Juice for Halloween?”. That line remains a family favorite even as they are both off to college now.

    Another favorite we still quote and use is a line from “Fiddler on the Roof”. Tevi says to his daughter “When will I see you again?” as she heads off to Siberia and she answers, “God alone knows Papa” to which my children finally asked, Why does she say, “Got A Long Nose” , Mama? ” Another gem I treasure to this day and quote regularly.

    Thanks Janet for jarring these fun memories.

  2. Vaguely Worried says:

    Embarrassing to admit, but with triplets, maybe you won’t judge me too harshly?…

    Until they were almost 6 years old, my brood’s favorite meal was: ‘Macamommy and cheese’.

  3. Patricia Arnold says:

    My son Seth asks for “Popstickles”. I smile every time and wouldn’t dream of correcting him. Thanks for your blog!

  4. Barbara Elder says:

    Two come to my mind, I’m sure there are more. My son John (now 45)called
    ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ ‘Fricky Tied Chicken’ and he thought the words to the song “My eyes adored ya” were “Miles of Torture.”

  5. Lynn Miner says:

    We were just talking about how certain kid words stick with you for a very long time. My oldest turned 16 today, but I still remember him calling the phone a “bwaff”. I don’t know why, but it was so cute.

    My other favorite story is when Joe’s first word after “ma ma” and “da da” was “Bobby”. “Bobby” is what he called Barney. We realized that everyone was Bobby when Grandma came over and with open arms called “Bobby”!!! I will never forget the day when he called my mother the same word for Barney (the purple dinosaur) lol

  6. Rebecca Ruegg says:

    I was reciting the alphabet with my son Justin who was about 2 or 3yrs old(now 23yrs old) and when we got to L,M,N,O, he said “no mommy you said that letter wrong it’s ellameno” and the P, he thought it was one letter called ellameno.

    1. Thank you all for your fantastic additions to the list! I just remembered a story about one of my nieces. My husband’s brother and his wife are not church-goers, but they took their daughter to a Christmas service and were mingling in the parish hall where there were snacks available beforehand. My niece searched the table and then urgently asked, “Where’s the baby cheeses?!”

      1. My wife tells me stories about herself as a child and her whole family singing about the “Baby Cheeses” – which eventually morphed into the “Baby Gouda.” It’s now almost a right of passage for young children in the extended family to learn about the “Joy of Cheese” each December. Talk about a rephrase taking on a whole life of it’s own!

  7. My oldest son’s favorite author in the first grade was Beverly Cleary, which he thought was Beverly Cleverly (makes sense). He also avoided climbing on certain trees or wooden playsets for fear of getting “splitsters”. I think that those were a combination of blisters and splinters.
    When I ask my kids to recall the cute things that they used to say, they can’t remember very many. I wrote down some of them but I wish that I had kept a journal of just those precious words and observations.

  8. When my oldest was about 3 years old, he was playing nearby while I was on the phone with a friend. During our conversation, I told my friend I needed to go on a diet. He came up to me and was yanking on my shirt saying in a concerned voice, “Mommy… Mommy… Don’t die yet. Don’t die yet, Mommy.” Precious!

  9. After a visit from my ex-Marine father my son, who was 3 at the time, learned the phrase “Where the hell is…” For about a month we were treated to delightful questions like “Where the hell is my milk?” and “Where the hell is Austria?” and the oft cried “Where the hell is Percy?”

    The other day he told me he learned the “c word” on the school bus. To my utter relief it was “crap.”

  10. Simply put, Green Day rocks! I remember the first time I listened to them.. Basket Case.. lol. After that I was hooked.

    Way to go Green Day!

  11. I remember a ton of ‘baby talk’ from being around my little brother during his preschool years (he is 3.5 years younger than me). He would proudly walk up to complete strangers and announce, “I have a great remry.” (memory) =)

  12. Amy Hesse says:

    Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” was a popular song when my nephew Carl was three and my sister spent a lot of time with the radio on. He referred to this as “the cross-eyed bear” song and it took us awhile to figure it out – “the cross I bare” that you gave to me”, but I sing those words to this day now:-)

    1. Oh, my gosh. The cross-eyed bear. I love that, Amy!

    1. Thanks, Jess! Had a look and you want to know something crazy? @Amy, there’s another cross-eyed bear! What are the odds? Check it out…

      Examples in songsThe top three mondegreens submitted regularly to mondegreen expert Jon Carroll are:[1]
      1.”Gladly, the cross-eyed bear[3] (from the line in the hymn “Keep Thou My Way” by Fanny Crosby, “Kept by Thy tender care, gladly the cross I’ll bear”)[14] Carroll and many others quote it as “Gladly the cross I’d bear”.
      2.There’s a bathroom on the right (the line at the end of each verse of “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival: “There’s a bad moon on the rise”)
      3.’Scuse me while I kiss this guy (from a lyric in the song “Purple Haze”, by Jimi Hendrix: “‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”).

  13. These are all so cute! It just goes to show you the fresh new ways kids look at the world.
    My son asked me today for ‘rainbows’ while holding out his Daddy’s big shoes…”Rainbows?” I though for a second and realized he wanted me to tie bows! So I gladly tied a rainbow on to each shoe and he toddled away.

  14. Elizabeth Poppe says:

    “Turn on the cold heat!” my youngest sister used to implore on hot summer drives. We still use her term for air conditioning 25 years later.

  15. Elizabeth Poppe says:

    Oh, and my niece likes ‘black salt toast’. Took my sister (she of the ‘cold heat’) ages to figure out she meant cinnamon toast!

  16. This reminds me of a few from my childhood:

    Manfred Man’s song “Blinded by the Light” has a lyric in it that goes “wrapped up like a deuce”, which I always thought was “revved up like a dude.”

    Then when I was 7 I approached my dad and told him I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore…you know, those people who don’t eat any meat (vegans) 😉

  17. Julie Daily says:

    My nephew Logan used to sing, “Smile like a peanut.” (Smile Like You Mean It – the Killers)

  18. Amanda Thompson says:

    I love this. My daughter is nearly two, so she’s still learning new words. She loves flowers, and knows her colours, and her favourite is a ‘yucky sour’ i.e. a yellow flower. Ha ha.

  19. A lil guy I used to live with and babysit would say “a toucan bike” for a tandem bicycle because “Two can ride it”!

    He also referred to his dad Matt as “laundro-Matt” because he was pn laundry duty for his family!

    My kiddo is about to be five and I cherish all of the sweet mispronunciations and creative terms he comes up with! Too many to name!

    His language and speech are developing naturally and incidentally without my partner and I “correcting” him. So I can’t bring myself to make him say breakfast, it’s “bep-pist”. I treasure these fleeting moments of him being a little guy!

    He’s recently gotten into The Bangles and was belting out “Just another Manny Monday!” And he’s been known to watch “Roject Prunway” with us as he’s very interested in fashion!

  20. Driving my then 5yo grandson to school one morning. The road runs along a train route. Reece asked what is that grandma. I replied that it was a goods train. Reece thought for a while and then axked: “It thst is a ggods train, what does a bads train look like”.

  21. Gwennifer says:

    My oldest spent am entire Christmas singing carols about baby cheeses…

    Mini babybel anyone?

  22. My daughter, now 23, used to sing Doe a deer, a female deer, Ray, a cotton ball of sun! Still makes me smile!

  23. My son used to say, “It’s froggy!” Every time it’s foggy outside, I visualize frogs falling from the sky…

    I enjoy music (melody), but do not pay too much attention to the lyrics for the most part, so I have some of my own.

  24. My older son, who is five, is obsessed with Lego, and he calls the instructions “constructions.” 🙂 Actually makes perfect sense.

  25. THose twinkling insects at twilight in summer? My son would run around the yard trying to catch the “thunder bugs.”

  26. On our way to school, almost 4 year old Finn asked ‘Mama, what day is it today?’ ‘It’s Tuesday today’… After a little thought he answered, ‘ooooh well if it’s Chooseday I choose Friday!’

  27. My son when he was two used to say he needed “pie with ah C” when going potty. (privacy)

  28. When singing along to ‘let it go’ my 3 yr old belts out “I’m never going back, the pasta’s in the pan”

  29. I apparently read ” the 3 Little Pigs and the Big Bad Woof” very scary.

  30. My son has so many. I was very sad when the adorable peapock became a boring old peacock.

    Oncem ponem time for once upon a time.

    Trying to make the joke about seven ate nine: seven eated nine.

    A couple of holiday offerings:
    Ho ho, the missing toe…
    I wanna wish you were Merry Christmas… (he is adamant that it is you and not a).

    And my personal fave that he brought home from pre-school and that took us ages to figure out: Blow out the teat, you may eat. (Bon appétit.)

  31. My farm loving daughter until recently couldn’t say combine harvester…she called them “cucumber cumbers”. And tonight’s little gem….sorting the fridge magnets out, she called them fridge maggots!;)

  32. My 2 year old has a few sayings that make me smile – kipping beans (kidney beans), labour bird (ladybird) and yamperoo (shampoo)

  33. Oh, my goodness, these are hilarious! Thank you all so much

  34. My son just had a circumcision revision. Of course his older sister (4) has TONS of questions and we always make sure to use correct terminology. He started crying about something and I over hear her comforting him “I sorry you peanut hurts” so hard to die laughing silently.

  35. On a thundery, rainy, afternoon, my daughter said, “it’s raining like hail!” Sure enough, the rain had turned to hail. She never understood why everyone laughed so hard until she was in her teens.

  36. Laurie Cassidy says:

    My mom who turns 91 on Dec. 5th told me when she was a little girl and prayed the Our Father, she thought instead of “lead us not into temptation” it was “lead a snot into temptation”…

  37. My boys favorite song these days is silent night, which they lovingly refer to as “sleep in heavenly peas!”

  38. Natasha Surig says:

    My son Jasper 3 was on his way to the hardwork store with his Daddy on the weekend…

    And he always says to his baby sister,
    “Awww, you’re a genius!” Gold!

  39. When I was a child me and my mum were in the car listening to james blunt. theres a line in one of his songs that goes “i saw an angel of that im sure”
    and I turned to my mother and said “whos adam shore” She was confused at first and then once i explained she absolutely lost it laughing

  40. I asked my mom what a widget stand was. You know, in the Pledge of Allegiance: “And to the republic for widget stands, one nation…”

  41. Ellen Cogan says:

    Some that pop into mind:
    The preschool teacher who sang the alphabet song “Lomeno”, P. I always wanted to know what that letter looked like.

    When my sons were little, they played with lots of small people, from Fisher Price and others. One of them was playing super heroes and called one of them “noop” man (superman). So at clean up time, he picked up all the noopmen and that became the generic term for all toy people in our family for years.

    My sister was in mid elementary school when she wanted to know the meaning of “commetridy”. She looked it up in the dictionary and it wasn’t there. But it was in the song, Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. She insisted. Took us a while to get “the world offers homage to Thee.”

    And my favorite was my then 2 year old’s saying of “properly”. pop-pop-ly It’s more than 40 years later, and I still sometimes say it that way and smile each time.

    Thanks for all the smiles this morning.

  42. My 2.5 year old:

    Okey donkey (okey dokey)

    Fuffy (puppy because they say fuff, fuff)

    She calls hippos “hiccups” because in Spanish hiccup is hipo

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