This week I had to write about Italian actor/musician Adriano Celentano’s song, “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I saw it in a comment on a Facebook post recently and after I listened to it once, it remained ricocheting around in my head. Here is the best clip I could find of the song on YouTube. The premise is that Celentano does not speak English. At all. He decided to write a song about what the English language sounds like to Italians. However, there are no Italian words and the only two English words in the song are part of the chorus, “All right”.
What does any of this have to do with poetry? I believe most song lyrics have some poetic qualities. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there are any recorded lyrics for “Prisencolinensinainciusol”. I found some published on the website LyricWiki. Whether that site, Genius Lyrics, Lyrics Translate, Lyrics Mode, or any of the myriad of other lyrics websites, they all seem to be the same. Maybe they are all drawing from a single source.
The most informative article I found on the song is “It’s Gibberish, But Italian Pop Song Still Means Something” published on NPR on November 4, 2012. There is also a blog published four years earlier through The New Yorker. Sasha Frere-Jones published “Stop Making Sense” on August 12, 2008. They’re great articles if you are interested in some fun, light reading as well as a catchy, clean song.
Along these same lines, I found reference to a short film called “Skwerl”. In a similar premise to “Prisencolinensinainciusol”, “Skwerl” is described as “How English sounds to non-English speakers”. It was written and directed by Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston of the site Brian & Karl. Brian and Karl published a script on Tumblr and as I suspected, “Skwerl” isn’t so much gibberish as it is English words strung together. I would like to see examples of what other languages sound like to English-speakers. Maybe I’ll see if that’s a rabbit hole I can get lost in.
Keep writing and look for more examples of quirky translations and gibberish!