There's Something Strange About the Lyrics in This 1970s Song

By Esther Inglis-Arkell on at

Here’s something fun to brighten your Monday. It’s a song by Adriano Celentano called “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, which can in equal parts improve your workout playlist and tell you about how your tongue is perceived.

The song was released on November 3, 1972, and quickly became a massive hit. If you listen to it without paying attention, it sounds weird and slurred, but otherwise like it could be a normal song. Pay more attention and the words get less intelligible. Pay even more attention, and you realise it’s gibberish. Skip to 1:39 in the video below to hear it for yourself. NSFW Note: the video gets a bit raunchy after the end of the song.

But it’s not random gibberish. Adriano Celentano wrote the song as a playful imitation of popular American songs. The gibberish is what American-accented English sounds like to Italian speakers. The beginning of the video is a famous performance of the song, and you can see it’s set in a classroom with Celentano as a fake English teacher.

The song wasn’t done using careful phonetics. Somewhat remarkably, Celentano improvised the original lyrics. The sound of English has probably changed in the last 43 years. Still, it’s an interesting window into what English-speakers sound like to other people.