For English-speaking Americans who’ve wondered what their language sounds like to foreign ears, this Italian pop hit from the '70s might have the answer.
“Prisencolinensinainciusol” reached the top spot on the Italian charts when it was released in 1972, despite the fact that the lyrics were 100 percent gibberish. Italian singer Adriano Celentano wrote the song to mimic the way he thought American English sounded. “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did,” said Celentano during a 2012 interview with All Things Considered. “I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”
Celentano came up with the lyrics on the spot while improvising over a looped beat. The result is bizarrely catchy funk rock anthem with a dash of Elvis Presley. Celentano’s impression is surprisingly convincing, even by native English-speaking standards. If you listen closely through the nonsense, you can even pick out the few coherent “babies” and “alights” that were thrown in for good measure. And it makes the perfect complement to a screening of Skwerl, the short film we wrote about earlier this week, which illustrates the English language through the ears of non-English speakers.