I am not a native English speaker, but watching movies and TV shows is not a problem for me. (Well, at least most of them.) However, I just have seen the ending of "The Avengers" on HBO, and this line bugged me since I couldn't make sense of it.

I heard it the first time like this ...

Like a sone we will live to rise
Like a sone we will live and die
[again] ignite again
Like a sone we will live to rise
again, ... again

Perhaps because I happen to know the word "sone" (a loudness unit), I heard it that way. But since it didn't make sense, I tried again. This time I was able to find it on YouTube. (I just learned to know its title Live To Rise during the search.)

This is fun, since this time I heard it like this,

Like the song we will live to rise
Like the song we will live and die
[again] ignite again
Like the song we will live to rise
again, ... again

This time I can hear the "th" sound. Thanks to my headphone. Though I was still unsure what that [again] actually was, it didn't really matter. The matter was that I got confused, trying to think which song that line meant.

Finally, I gave up. I looked for its lyric and once I found it, I laughed out loud.

I have never expected an American to say the word "sun" so close to "sone" or "song" this much. (Though I might, if I expected to hear an English accent, where the word "all" would sound closer to "owl" to my ears.)

My question is: would a typical native English speaker hear it rightly the first time?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Tyler James Young, chrylis, Siddhartha, choster, StoneyB Dec 5 '13 at 23:13

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  • This question is highly subjective. I haven't heard the song (or the sun), but surely the answer is "some will and some won't". – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 16:12
  • Isn't it more like "almost all will"? – Damkerng T. Nov 27 '13 at 16:14
  • People often find it difficult to make out the exact words of songs. There is music, sometimes loud music, behind the words that can make it difficult to hear what is being said. The person is singing rather than speaking in a normal voice. Phrasing is often poetic rather than conventional so many of the usual context clues are absent. I've often heard a song many times and can't figure out the lyrics. If I care I look them up. In this case, I found the video on YouTube and ... I'm not sure, if you hadn't already told me that the word is "sun" I don't know if I would have caught it. ... – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 16:33
  • ... It sounded rather like "sawn" to me. – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 16:34
  • Thank you very much, Jay! I myself sometimes can't hear some songs in my mother tongue correctly the first time too. But IMHO, it depends on the way the singers sing them for the most part. – Damkerng T. Nov 27 '13 at 16:45

Yes probably, but it has less to do with how it sounds so much as the context.

Our brains look to make links with things all the time. In language, there are certain words that are used a lot together and two such words are "Sun" and "rise". When we see one word, our brains will load a list of related words into a cache. This happens largely subconsciously . So when we hear "Rise" later on out brain figures out that the weird sound it just heard that it couldn't understand must be "Sun" and will put "Sun" in when it hears it again.

Of course this wouldn't just happen because Chris Cornell says "Sun" in a weird way, he could have been saying "Son" and we also wouldn't have worked it out until the line ends.

I think it's just a matter of time until your brain starts doing these things automatically.

  • Sure, "rise" and "ignite" are clues that "sun" rather than "song" or "son" or "sawing" are intended. – Jay Nov 27 '13 at 18:19

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