Kilimanjaro Rises Like A Limp Wrist Above The Serengeti: Mondegreens, Africa, and Yacht Rock

The newly minted wife (aka the ex-eternal fiancee’ of the skeptical cardiologist) and I love mondegreens and we love to argue about the relative worth of songs.

She, for example, loves “yacht rock” and I abhor it, maintaining that any good song (e.g. one I like) cannot be considered in that annoying genre (Steely Dan’s  “Do It Again”, for example). 

A Mondegreen per wikipedia

is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954, writing about how as a girl she had misheard the lyric “…and laid him on the green” in a Scottish ballad as “…and Lady Mondegreen”.

Mondegreens are becoming extinct I fear, as today’s youth do not have to wonder what any particular lyric is-they can just Google it and have the answer in seconds. A Lottie study done recently, has some eye-opening analysis on how song lyrics over the years have evolved and changed.  

Today, however, we hit the jackpot as the ex-EFOSC texted a snippet of the awful song “Africa” by the awful band “Toto” to a friend. I have saved my precious readers the misery of listening to the entire song and herewith present you with the audio snippet:

Misheard or wrong Toto Africa song lyrics.

The wife was impressed with the fact that Toto worked some unusual words into a particular line of the song, which she had always thought was “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leprous above the Serengeti.” When I questioned her as to what a leprous was (a female leper?) she laughed and realized she was thinking leopardess, as in female sphinx-type thing. A friend of hers always heard “rises like a limp wrist,” which explains my blog title.

I told her this sentence made no sense and when I googled her phrase I found somebody else had misread the true lyric to a greater extent as: Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leprous above this Africa heat 

The actual silly verse is as follow

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become

Now those are some amazingly pretentious and unintentionally humorous words! (This coming from someone who maintains Jim Morrison is a great poet.)

I am not alone in considering this a silly song with pretentious lyrics-

In an article (How Did Toto’s Africa become a millennial anthem?) on the love that millennials have for Toto and Africa, Toto founder and guitarist Steve Lukather is quoted as saying:

“I could never have called this. We’ve always worked, but to have everything blow up again over this silly song… All these young kids are coming to our shows. We’re at half a billion streams, getting ten million a month. All of our albums are selling. It’s a trip for us.

Yes, this is truly a silly song by a bad band but it has produced a wonderful mondegreen.

Please feel free to share your favorite mondegreen.

Mondegreenophilically Yours,


N.B. Millennials even love this terrible video of Africa and have watched it 445 million times!


27 thoughts on “Kilimanjaro Rises Like A Limp Wrist Above The Serengeti: Mondegreens, Africa, and Yacht Rock”

  1. Chiming in late, catching up on blog. This song was after my time but I always had laugh when I heard it. “Blinded by the light” by Manfred Mann. The line “revved up like a deuce another runner in the night”, when I was a youth I was certain they were talking about a wrapped up feminine care product. So happy years later the internet cleared things up for me lyrics wise or I would probably still be misguided in what I thought I heard.

  2. Personal favorite of mine from the Billy Joel catalog…
    Captain Jack will get you pie tonight
    Also, as my son has developed an unfortunate habit of expressing his fatigue while signing along to some of my classic rock favorites, the new radio format at our house is “Yawn Rock”…

  3. From the band America and the song “Ventura Highway” the lyrics …”Oz never gave anything to the Tin Man” always heard as “I’ze never gave anything…”
    Or from Alanis Morrisette’s song “You ought to know” the lyrics “the cross I bear…” to “the cross eyed bear”

  4. And I learned a new term from this post – “yacht rock”, something I’d never heard of despite living in NorCal since the late 1970s.

  5. Mondegreen of a spoken phrase: My young son gave me a birthday card and signed it “with love and infection”.
    Thanks for this post and the smiles!

  6. From Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” she was breaking his heart, and shaking his “coffee and Staley’s.” (Shaking my confidence daily). Figured Staley’s was a brand of doughnuts unknown in Oklahoma.

  7. This is not from s song but when granddaughter Audrey was two or so she came running in and told her Mom Daddy is going to shake me in the corn if I do such and such. He had said , “in no way, shape or form are you going to do that”

  8. CCR Bad Moon Rising – “There’s a bathroom on the right.” However, my most favorite is Rick Springfield “Walk Like a Man” – great song but he turns “I’m dreaming bout the raison d’etre..” into sounding like “I’m dreamin’ bout the raisinettes…” I laugh every time… :-D

  9. Vindication of that anonymous, medaeival critic who was so disparaging of the current fad for young men to serenade their lady-friends, – to the detriment of said gentleman’s clear-thinking & intelligence…
    “Lute-ing and singing doth make a man’s wit so soft and smooth that he be unable to brook strong and tough study…”


Leave a Reply to Dr. AnthonyPCancel reply