I still remember Mom at an “oldies” concert where they were playing “Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Mom’s dancing around and swinging her arm overhead like she’s about to throw a lasso. Getting closer, I hear her singing, “Ride the pony, ride the pony.” I laughed myself silly as she sang the lyrics through the whole song, not just at the end.

But of course, Mom is not alone. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits is often misunderstood as “money for nothing and chips for free.” Believe it or not, Sir Elton John’s “Hold me closer tiny dancer,” is commonly heard as “Hold me closer Tony Danza.” Madonna’s “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time,” people often hear as, “Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time.” (That one really loses something in translation!) 

But I really didn’t have a right to giggle. I was listening to a song on the radio on my way to work, and I thought the words were, “God is on the roof.” So I’m singing that for all I’m worth, with the windows down. 

Next time I hear the song, my windows are up, and I finally hear, “God is on the move.” Like, of course, why would God be on my roof? Makes more sense when you hear something accurately, right?

Misunderstanding what we hear is not our only problem. Sometimes we misunderstand intent. My dentist said recently, “You may need a crown.” But I don’t think my regal vision was what she intended. Even a slight grammatical error can change a sentence. There is a big difference between, “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma.” 

So, where am I going with all of this and how in the world does it tie into our profession?

Well, we’re human and we misunderstand what people say, or miss the intent of what people say. Maybe we didn’t hear them well; maybe they spoke too softly; maybe they spoke too fast. Maybe we just assume we know what they meant; maybe we were multitasking, or whatever. 

The problem is, when it comes to verbal orders, those mistakes can do damage. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society said 16% to 27% of nursing home residents experience medication errors, many due to transcription problems. We want to be sure we’re putting the right treatment to the right area, so we need to understand what the order is, right?

If eating Grandma just doesn’t sound like something you should be doing, ask, clarify and get it right. Otherwise, you’ve got some explaining to do when God comes off that roof and starts asking questions!