Seriously, don’t even try to pronounce that.

Instead, pick a language you don’t know, but can roughly approximate what it sounds like when spoken. Then, “speak” it, making up a nonsense version of that language as you go along. Now, take your “words” and put it to music which you think is appropriate for that language’s culture. If you do it well, you’ll end up with a song which to a native speaker is gibberish, but to someone who doesn’t know the language sounds like it could be real.

You don’t have to take my word for it, because it’s been done. That’s what “Prisencolinensinainciusol” is. It’s a song, from Italy, 1972. You can watch the video (and listen to it), below.



The song is, intentionally, nonsense. The words aren’t words but simply a collection of meaningless sounds intended to resemble what non-English speakers hear when they hear English. The sounds are so random that the singer, Adriano Celentano, did not even write the lyrics down — he simply ad-libbed his best fake English while recording.

Despite the fact that the words aren’t actual words, the song was incredibly popular in Italy and in other parts of Europe, cracking the top 10 on the Italian, Belgian, French, and Dutch charts (peaking at #1 overall in Italy) and hitting number 46 in Germany. Perhaps the listeners didn’t know that the words were made up. Perhaps they didn’t care. The song was catchy, regardless, and as any American non-Korean speaker can testify (think Gangnam Style), sometimes the “words” don’t matter all that much.

That said, while the lyrics are nonsense (and not really “lyrics”), the purpose of the song isn’t. NPR caught up with Celentano in late 2012, forty years after the song came out, and apparently, his goal was to “break down language barriers and inspire people to communicate more.” Those are NPR’s words, though — Celentano never learned to speak real English, and the interview needed to be conducted through a translator.

Bonus Fact: In 1963, a group named the Kingsmen covered the song “Louie Louie,” originally recorded by Richard Berry eight years prior. The Kingsmen’s version is a classic and you’ve almost certainly heard it (but if not, here you go) and likely can sing the whole thing — kind of. You probably have no idea what the actual words are because they’re a garbled mess which is impossible to understand. But that didn’t stop an angry parent from writing to then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and insisting that the lyrics were obscene. For some reason, this lead to an FBI investigation (!) which concluded, no, the lyrics are just unintelligible. The FBI was right, but they missed something. At about 0:53 into the song, Lynn Easton, the band’s drummer, dropped a drumstick and yelled out the f-word. It’s audible (but not obvious) in the recording (which if you didn’t click to listen to before, you probably will now).

From the ArchivesThe Tales of the Prairie Dog: Apparently, they speak to each other. Not in English or in whatever language Prisencolinensinainciusol is in, though.

RelatedPrisencolinensinainciusol, a 99 cent mp3, which again, makes no sense.