Someone who doesn't know all the lyrics to a song might sing "la la la" or "dum dum dum" in place of the verses they don't know. Is there a verb for this? Similar to "humming" the tune, but with syllables?

I'm aware of the verb "scat," but to me it implies a particular style of fast-paced jazz nonsense vocalization. I'm looking for a more general word, if it exists.

  • Not a verb, but those types of nonsense syllables are sometimes called "filler", so you could say you "substitute filler for the unknown lyrics." Or something along those lines.
    – miltonaut
    Feb 21, 2017 at 23:41
  • Humming doesn't preclude syllables; someone who is ‘humming a tune’ while vacuuming, for instance, may well actually be hmmhmhm-dumdadadee-bmdmdadoo’ing more than just hmmmmmmmm’ing. Then again, if it's an actual part of a song (as in the well-known riff from Tom’s Diner, or indeed the entire album entitled ( ) by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós), then it's definitely not humming anymore. Feb 21, 2017 at 23:48
  • Checking the definition of humming, it means "to sing with closed lips," so I don't think it quite fits. If the nonsense is an actual part of the song, I think it's called a "vocalise" (english.stackexchange.com/a/206944/9601).
    – Amanda S
    Feb 22, 2017 at 0:25
  • Perhaps non-lexical vocable, but it is not specific to substituting for unknown lyrics.
    – jxh
    Feb 22, 2017 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


You can say fudge the lyrics.

Example of authentic use:

I discovered recently that there's a line that goes "Just your typical prototype." I usually fudged my way through the lyrics with something having to do with keeping kimonos tied, and wondered why the hell her bathrobe had anything to do with it.

Instrumentalists do this too, but then it's called faking it. You have to do that in certain passages of the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.


If you honestly mishear the lyrics then, mondegreen could work. You'd have to mistake actual lyrics for la la la or dum dum dum.

Of course its a noun, so I guess it wouldn't work. I don't think there are any single words for what your thinking of though.

  • Interesting word, but the question didn't say anything about mishearing the lyrics. Feb 23, 2017 at 6:33
  • Yeah, I've got a little to used to quora
    – JCool
    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:24

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