‘Prisencolinensinainciusol’: Here’s what the nonsensical ‘English’ song actually means in Italy

‘Prisencolinensinainciusol': Here’s what the nonsensical 'English' song actually means in Italy
Italian actor and singer Adriano Celentano wrote "Prisencolinensinainciusol” in 1972. Photo: AFP
In 1972, Italian singer Adriano Celentano wrote a song with nonsensical lyrics supposed to sound like American English. It went to number one - and is still being shared online today.

'The song was number one in the Italian charts despite the fact that it wasn’t performed in Italian – or in any language.

It went on to become number one in France, Germany and Belgium, too.

The lyrics to “Prisencolinensinainciusol” were intended to mimic the way American English sounds to non-English speakers, as Celentano is believed to have been trying to prove that Italians would like any song in English, despite having no idea what was being said.

The video for “Prisencolinensinainciusol” has been widely shared on social media. Screenshot: Youtube

More than that, he said the song has an “angry tone” because of his frustration about “the fact that people don't communicate.”

“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 said in a 2012 interview on US radio station NPR.

“And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn't mean anything,” he said.

He insisted that American English sounds “exactly like that”.

Whether you agree or not, you do have to listen to the song – and see the video – to appreciate it.

The video, which features singer Claudia Mori, who is also Celentano's wife, was widely shared online on Thursday after resurfacing on Facebook.

 
Celentano said he never wrote the lyrics down, but recorded them over a looped beat.
 
Fans have since attempted to write down the nonsensical language used in the song.
 

Celentano was far from the first or only Italian performer to be heavily influenced by American culture and the English language at that time.

After World War II, the influence of US culture spread rapidly across Europe – and it was particularly strong in Italy.

The phenomenon was perhaps most famously captured in the 1954 film Un Americano a Roma (An American in Rome), in which actor Alberto Sordi plays a young Italian who becomes obsessed with American culture, starts wearing jeans and a baseball cap and ditches his red wine for milk. 

And of course, there’s Tu vuo’ fa l’americano (“You Want to Be American”) by Renato Carosone, a song written in 1956 about a young Neapolitan who is trying to impress a girl.

Since then, countless Italian songwriters have peppered their lyrics with English words and phrases – however, they are usually real words, even if the meaning sometimes gets lost in translation.

READ ALSO: Ten English words which will make you sound cool in Italian

Celentano’s nonsensical 'English' song may be almost 50 years old, but it remains popular today – perhaps because it still says something about the relationship  Italians have with the English language.

On Thursday the video resurfaced on social media, and was met with incredulity by younger Italians, as well as those from other countries who hadn’t encountered it before.

But it had never really disappeared. It remained instantly recognisable to many people, as it could often be heard on Italian television.

In 2016, Italian state broadcaster Rai produced a modern tribute to Prisencolinensinainciusol, with a dance routine performed to a remixed version by Benny Benassi.


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