Frogs in the Throat

One of my more unsettling memories of Primary comes from an afternoon when I was perhaps four, and we were having Singing Time.  The chorister couldn’t talk very loudly; she explained that she had a “frog in her throat.”  I was horrified.  I hadn’t realized that frogs might jump into people’s throats.  I wondered how it would get back out, and I watched her anxiously.

Another image I found disturbing as a child came from the song “O, Susannah.” I’m not sure where I heard the song—maybe on one of the records we checked out from the public library.  “I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee,” sang the man.  I had no idea what a “banjo” might be, but I imagined it as a kind of deformity growing on his knee, perhaps preventing him from walking.  For this reason, I really didn’t care for this song.

Speaking of songs, I recall singing “Home on the Range” with the lyrics “where Seldom has heard / a discouraging word.”  I thought that Seldom was a proper name, though I’m not sure I ever tried to figure out why he had heard a discouraging word.  Eve, upon hearing my version, explained to me that “seldom” actually meant “not often.”  I tried it out, singing to myself, “where not often is heard,” and was fascinated to see that it made sense.

It took me years to figure out what was going on with the song “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree.” I knew it wasn’t actually popcorn, but I couldn’t figure out just what it was. I also had a hard time making sense of “Give, Said the Little Stream.” What did a stream have to do with giving?

Anyone else want to chime in?


  1. I think I was a grownup before I figured out that “Give said the little stream” was about generosity, not spinelessness. I thought the stream wanted us to “give way.” It didn’t make much sense, but the popcorn thing was kind of weird too.

    I was probably about 12 when I first noticed a reference to “Relief Society” in the church bulletin. Some sort of society for relief? I’d never heard of it. What could it be? Relief from what? What does this “Relief Society” have to do with church?

    Then it hit me. That meeting my mother went to on Tuesdays–something called “reeleecisity”… It’s actually “Relief Society.” I’d never thought how it might be spelled. It never occurred to me that the name might be formed from familiar English words. To me, “reeleecisity” was simply the word that referred to the meeting.

  2. One time during my stint as primary chorister, I walked the entire primary down the street during singing time to see a tree in the neighborhood that was in blossom (it wasn’t an apricot tree, I don’t think, but it had white blossoms, so it worked). Because, yeah, I didn’t have any idea as a primary child what that song was about, either.

    I used to envision the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz whenever we sang “Let Us All Press On” (“Fear not, though the wicked deride…”). It freaked me out.

    My brother told me once he used to be puzzled by the line in “I hope they call me on a mission” that discussed being called to serve after having “grown a foot or two.” After all, he reasoned, you don’t see many two-foot-tall missionaries out there?

  3. I thought that the song I am a Child of God said, “teach me all that I’m a stew.” I didn’t want to ask anyone what a “stew” was because I was afraid I would just look stupid. I think I figured it out at girls camp and started laughing. Like, “oh, what I must do. That make so much sense.”

  4. After singing the hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” I once asked my parents why it was that all the angels in heaven were named “Harold.”

  5. This isn’t a song, but my mom used the expression “keep your eyes peeled for _____” and I would imagine an eyeball and a potato peeler and it was graphic. I’m sure she had no idea how gory that expression seemed to me.

    So many songs didn’t make sense when I was a kid. Or they made sense in a way that wasn’t intended. In “I Stand All Amazed” in my version “that he should care for me, he loved to die for me” It was nice that he died for me, but I thought it was remarkable that he LOVED the dying part, not just suffered through the dying part.

    Any Glen Campbell fans? In my version of a Rhinestone Cowboy, he was getting “cards and lettuce from people I don’t even know.” Eventually I found out it was letters. Made so much more sense.

  6. My favorite is our enlightened LGBT anthem “High on a Mountaintop” and its line about the gospel: “…her light should there attract the gaze, of all the world in latter days.”

    Who knew?

  7. There was a little boy in our ward who was unenthusiastic about being sealed to his parents and nobody could figure out why. When the big day came he had disappeared. He was finally located hiding in a closet, where he finally explained through the tears, “I don’t want anyone to take out my endowments!”

    He didn’t know what his endowments were but he didn’t want them removed because he was sure it was going to be painful!

  8. Ooh I remember one and it’s so Thanksgiving appropriate!

    Prayer of Thanksgiving really confused me as a kid. The last two lines, “Sing praises to his name; He forgets not his own,” made me think, “Well, yeah, how could God forget his name? Of course he knows his name!” It made me wonder if we needed to praise God a lot so He wouldn’t forget his name.

  9. My youngest child believed for years that one of the names of God was “Speaky,” which he had extrapolated from the 2nd verse of the Primary song “A Child’s Prayer,” which begins “Pray, he is there. Speak, he is listening.”

  10. In Primary once, I sang the lyrics to “I am a Child of God” as “He has left me here” instead of “He has sent me here.” The fact that I was the Primary President at the time makes this lapse either Very Awful or Very Understandable, depending on your point of view. (I hope “Speaky” will be sympathetic…)

  11. Laura for some reason I always mess up “Let Us All Press On”, singing: “Fear not, though the naked deride…” Not sure where I heard that but I accidentally sing it every time now.

    It took me a while to figure out that CCR classic didn’t have the chorus: “Don’t go around tonight, Well, it’s bound to take your life, There’s a bathroom on the right.”

  12. My grandmother used to tell us that as a child she believed that the nation were sending the monarch plums – “send her/him victorias” as opposed to “victorious”.

    Sympathising with hpm – I created a poster for the words to “If the Saviour stood beside me” whilst serving on the primary presidency, but instead of “I am in his watchful care” turned out to have typed “I am watchful in his care”, up there for everyone to see.

    Otherwise we either don’t speak clearly in my family, or are slow to process in applying context, or both, because we frequently seem to mishear eachother to comic effect.


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