Livonia is a very nice suburb of Detroit, here in Michigan.
Until I lived here, I'd never heard of it.
It first came to my attention prominently when my wife and I were riding in the car with the radio on.
We were listening to Dionne Warwick's recording of "I'll never fall in love again"
After she reached a particular lyric, my wife commented that it always seemed to be an odd
choice of phrase.
She was referring to Dionne's singing:
"What do you get when you kiss a guy?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do, the men of Livonia....."
I had to point out that the actual lyric was "After you do, he'll never phone ya"
My wife had been harboring this deranged illusion ever since the first time she heard the song,
in the sixties.
I felt the need to call attention to the ludicrousness of her thought process, the inherent
senselessness of what she thought she heard, and that who, outside of Michigan, had ever heard of
The point was made, and the illusion was finally eradicated.
This led me to remind myself of several other butchered interpretations of popular songs,
exclusively by members of my family.
The earliest one that I can recall was when my seven year old sister was called upon to give her first, and ultimately her last public singing performance at my Bar Mitzvah, with her rendition of
"Do, Re, Mi", from "The Sound of Music"
It included her use of the line "Sew, ulneeda pulling thread"
Okay, she was seven.
Some slack should be cut.
But at around the same time, my mother, Bella, was around forty.
My father had bought a Mercedes-Benz with a diesel engine, which he promply turned into a taxicab.
Ever the innovator.
We all coined a nickname for it: "The Mercediesel".
She then purchased the original Broadway Cast Album of that self-same show, "The Sound of Music"
On it, there was this charming song called "How Can Love Survive?"
I don't believe that this song survived it's way into the movie.
It was sung as a duet by Kurt Kasznar and Marion Marlowe.
It contained the following lyrics:
"No rides for us on the top of a bus
In the face of the freezing breezes
You reach your goals in your comfy old Rolls
Or in one of your Mercedes-es!"
As soon as she heard that lyric, there was no convincing Bella that Kurt was NOT singing
Never mind that "The Sound of Music" took place in the 1930's, when there probably were no
Never mind that we, in fact, coined the term "Mercediesels"
Bella was convinced, and remained convinced, all the way to her grave, that it was "Mercediesels"
Back to my sister, about six years later, which would make her thirteen, to all you mathematicians
At some point, out of the blue, my sister asks me "Mark, does minjulepa mean oss?"
A few words of explanation are in order.
"Oss" was my sister's consciously amusing way of saying the word "ass".
Whenever she was asked a question that would begin with the word "Where?",
her response would more than likely be "Up oss".
Or, literally, "up your ass".
So I bewilderedly wrestled with the question "Does minjulepa mean oss?"
Then she put it into context.
"You know, like in the song---"You give my old minjulepa kick, Mame"
I had to explain, not unpatronizingly, what a mint julep was, and how ungrammatical it
would have been if minjulepa DID mean oss.
It's as if you were singing "You give my old oss kick".
There was no room left for an "a".
I am also guilty of lyric butchery in the same manner, and of course, my sister has never let me
hear the end of it.
When I heard Janis Joplin sing "Me and Bobby McGee" for the first time, I questioned my sister
as to whether Janis was singing "Breathin's just another word for nuthin' left to lose",
or "Freedom's just another word for nuthin' left to lose".
My sister let me have it between the eyes.
"Breathin'?" "Breathin'?" What are you, a moron?
Now, I maintain that this example doesn't hold a candle to minjulepa or Mercediesels.
And it's not as if I was certain that it was "Breathin'"
I was just questioning it.
I think a case can actually be made for "Breathin'"
Not a very good one.
"Freedom" is certainly a vast upgrade.
But I confess to having had my doubts.
I don't usually solicit comments for the Comments section, but I'm somewhat curious as to
whether my family was unique in this regard, or whether examples like this are rampant among
If so, I'd like to hear yours.
My book,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
You might want to check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperback, "Mark Rothman's Essays" is still available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you like one, contact me at email@example.com.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."