An old mishearing

For almost 33 years now, I’ve been mishearing the lyrics to the theme song “Thank You For Being a Friend” for the American sitcom The Golden Girls (which debuted in September 1985 and continued through 1992). Just one line:

And the card attached would say

which I hear, every time (including just now, as I watch re-runs of the show), as

And the heart attack would say

The phonological relationships are close, but of course heart attack makes no sense at all in the context. Yet the illusion perseveres. Even when I know it’s about to come up again, I have to struggle not to hear heart attack.

The text around it:

The song was written by Andrew Gold and first recorded by him in 1978; you can listen to that version here. The version used on the show was performed by Cynthia Fee; you can listen to that one here.

The non-identical segment pairings between card attached and heart attack:

syllable onset: k HEARD AS h

syllable rhyme: d HEARD AS t

syllable rhyme: č HEARD AS k
(the final t of attached is very short or absent entirely)

All these relationships are quite close phonetically. On listening several times to Cynthia Fee’s performance, the card sounds very close indeed to heart, so that once that word is misidentified, the following word will be understood as following heart, thus introducing a bias towards the idiomatic compound heart attack. The point is that the words aren’t comprehended separately, but are understood in a context unfolding in time.

 

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