Fact Check

Italian Song with Nonsense Lyrics Meant To Sound Like American English?

"He can actually sing in Doctor’s Handwriting," one YouTube comment read.

Published May 10, 2024

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Image courtesy of Getty Images
Claim:
Italian singer Adriano Celentano released a song in the 1970s with nonsense lyrics meant to sound like American English.

On May 5, 2024, a post emerged on Reddit, reading, "Italian singer Adriano Celentano released a song in the 70s with nonsense lyrics meant to sound like American English, apparently to prove Italians would like any English song. It was a huge hit."?

It's true. Adriano Celentano's 1972 song "Prisencolinensinainciusol" was, in fact, a deliberate attempt to create a song with nonsense lyrics that sounded like American English to an Italian audience.?

While the lyrics of "Prisencolinensinainciusol" are complete gibberish, Celentano composed them to mimic the way English sounds to non-English speakers, specifically imitating an American accent. An NPR article titled, "It's Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something," informed that the song emerged from Celentano's fascination with American pop culture:

"Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, through interpreter Sim Smiley.

"So at a certain point, because I like American slang — which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian — I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate," he says. "And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn't mean anything."

NPR also said the song has been "characterized as everything from Euro-pop, funk, house and even the world's first rap song — none of which were Celentano's intention":

"From what I know, 10 years later, rap music exploded in the States," he says. "I sang it with an angry tone because the theme was important. It was an anger born out of resignation. I brought to light the fact that people don't communicate."

But is that really what American English sounds like?

"Yes," he says. "Exactly like that."

The Guardian mentioned the song in an?article?with the title, "Sounds of Italy - day one: a history of Italian pop in 10 songs," underscoring that its?vocals are pure gibberish from start to finish:

Impervious to shifts in public mood, Adriano Celentano's position as a national icon hasn't been in doubt at any point over the last six decades. One of the first stars to bring rock'n'roll to Italy, he's most famous internationally for the remarkable glam stomp of Prisencolinensinainciusol. Designed to sound like American English does to people who don't speak the language, the Dylanesque vocals are pure gibberish from start to finish – putting them in a similar category to much of Bob Dylan's own work from the 80s onwards. Accompanied by Raffaella Carrà, his 1974 Rai Uno performance is one of the most perfectly executed television spectacles you'll ever see.

Below you can find a sample of the lyrics of "Prisencolinensinainciusol" we accessed via Genius:

In de col men seivuan
Prisencolinensinainciusol ol rait

Uis de seim cius nau op de seim
Ol uait men in de colobos dai
Trrr - ciak is e maind beghin de col
Bebi stei ye push yo oh

Uis de seim cius nau op de seim
Ol uait men in de colobos dai
Not s de seim laikiu de promisdin
Iu nau in trabol lovgiai ciu gen

In do camo not cius no bai for lov so
Op op giast cam lau ue cam lov ai
Oping tu stei laik cius go mo men
Iu bicos tue men cold dobrei goris

We've fact-checked other Italy-related claims in the past. In April 2024 we investigated whether an Italian mafia boss, Gioacchino Gammino, was captured after 20 years thanks to Google Street View.?We also?fact-checked?whether a March 2024 Instagram post accurately reported that Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told Tucker Carlson in an interview that Italy has an "ancestral right" to all of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

Sources

Adriano Celentano – Prisencolinensinainciusol. genius.com, https://genius.com/Adriano-celentano-prisencolinensinainciusol-lyrics. Accessed 7 May 2024.

Hardinges, Nick. "Did Italy's PM Claim Italy Has 'Ancestral Right' to Europe, North Africa and West Asia?" Snopes, 19 Mar. 2024, //fact-check/italian-pm-ancestral-rights/.

Italy Archives | Snopes.Com. /tag/italy/. Accessed 7 May 2024.

Khan, Andrew. "Sounds of Italy - Day One: A History of Italian Pop in 10 Songs." The Guardian, 9 July 2012. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/jul/09/history-italian-pop-10-songs.

N, et al. "It's Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something." NPR, 4 Nov. 2012. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2012/11/04/164206468/its-gibberish-but-italian-pop-song-still-means-something.

Wrona, Aleksandra. "Italian Mafia Boss Captured After 20 Years Thanks to Google Maps?" Snopes, 19 Apr. 2024, //fact-check/italian-mafia-boss-google-maps/.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.