Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. "There's a bathroom on the right" standing in for "there's a bad moon on the rise" is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.
Finally along with knowledge, we're governed by familiarity: we are more likely to select a word or phrase that we're familiar with, a phenomenon known as Zipf's law. One of the reasons that "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" substituted for Jimi Hendrix's "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" remains one of the most widely reported mondegreens of all time can be explained in part by frequency. It's much more common to hear of people kissing guys than skies.
The last major earthquake in Los Angeles was the 6.7-magnitude Northridge quake, which killed close to 60 people in 1994. But it was not close to the catastrophe that seismologists predict if there is a major shift on the San Andreas fault, and the fact that it has not produced a major quake in recent years has fed a sense of complacency. Seismologists now say a 7.5-magnitude event on the Puente Hills would be "the quake from hell" because it runs right under downtown Los Angeles and have estimated that would kill up to 18,000 people, make several million homeless, and cause up to $250 billion in damage. "We want to keep the city up and running after the earthquake happens," says Lucy Jones aka "The Earthquake Lady," a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey and something of a celebrity in a city that is very aware of the potential danger of its location. "If everything in this report is enacted, I believe that L.A. will not just survive the next earthquake, but will be able to recover quickly."