Prisencolinensinainciusol, the Catchy Italian Pop Song That Sounded Like It Had English Lyrics, But Was Actually Gibberish (1972)

Yes­ter­day a friend and I were stand­ing on a New York City side­walk, wait­ing for the light, when Stayin’ Alive began issu­ing at top vol­ume from a near­by car.

Pavlov­ian con­di­tion­ing kicked in imme­di­ate­ly.  We’d been singing along with the Bee Gees for near­ly a minute before real­iz­ing that nei­ther of us knew the lyrics. Like, at all.

Ital­ian actor and musi­cian Adri­ano Celen­tano’s cult clas­sic, Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol, inspires a sim­i­lar response.

The dif­fer­ence being that should I ever need to prep for karaoke, Stayin’ Alive’s lyrics are wide­ly avail­able online, where­as Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s lyrics are kind of anyone’s guess…nonsense in any lan­guage.

Celen­tano impro­vised this gib­ber­ish in 1972 in an attempt to recre­ate how Amer­i­can rock and roll lyrics sound like to non-Eng­lish-speak­ing Ital­ian fans like him­self.

As he told NPR’s All Things Con­sid­ered through a trans­la­tor dur­ing a 2012 inter­view:

Ever since I start­ed singing, I was very influ­enced by Amer­i­can music and every­thing Amer­i­cans did. 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…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.

And yet, his 1974 appear­ance in the above sketch on the Ital­ian vari­ety series For­mu­la Due spurs strangers to make stabs at com­mu­ni­ca­tion by shar­ing their best guess tran­scrip­tions of Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s lyrics in YouTube com­ments, 51 years after the song’s orig­i­nal release.

A sam­pling, anchored by the cho­rus’ icon­ic and unmis­take­able “all right:”


My eyes lie, sense­less.
I guess I’m throw­ing piz­za.

And the cold wind sailor,
freez­ing cold and icy in Tuc­son



My eyes are way so sen­si­tive
And it gets so cold, it’s freez­ing

You’re the cold, main, the same one
Please let’s call ’em ‘n’ dance with my shoes off
All right



My eyes smile sense­less but it doesn’t go with diesel all right.



I don’t know why but I want a maid to say I want pair of ice blue shoes with eyes…awight.


Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s loop­ing, throb­bing beat is wild­ly catchy and immi­nent­ly dance­able, as evi­denced by Celentano’s per­for­mance on For­mu­la Due and that of the black clad dancers back­ing him up dur­ing an appear­ance on Mil­lelu­ci, anoth­er mid-70s Ital­ian vari­ety show, below.

The atten­tion gen­er­at­ed by these vari­ety show seg­ments — both lip synched — sent Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol up the charts in Italy, Bel­gium, Ger­many, France, the Nether­lands, the UK,  and even the Unit­ed States.

Its mix of dis­co, hip hop and funk has proved sur­pris­ing­ly durable, inspir­ing remix­es and cov­ers, includ­ing the one that served as philoso­pher Slavoj Žižek’s Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test entry.

Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol has net­ted a whole new gen­er­a­tion of fans by crop­ping up on Ted Las­so, Far­go, a com­mer­cial for spiced rum, and seem­ing­ly innu­mer­able Tik­Toks.

We’ll prob­a­bly nev­er get a firm grasp on the lyrics, despite Ital­ian tele­vi­sion host Pao­lo Bono­lis’ puck­ish 2005 attempt to goad befud­dled native Eng­lish speak­er Will Smith into deci­pher­ing them.

No mat­ter.

Celentano’s supreme­ly con­fi­dent deliv­ery of those indeli­ble non­sense syl­la­bles is what counts, accord­ing to a YouTube view­er from Slove­nia with fond mem­o­ries of play­ing in a rock band as a teen in the 1960’s:

This is exact­ly how we non-Eng­lish-speak­ers sung the then hit songs. You learned some begin­ning parts of lyrics so that the audi­ence rec­og­nized the song. They heard it at Radio Lux­em­bourg. From here on it was exact­ly the same style — out­side the cho­rus of course. Adri­ano Celen­tano was always been a leg­end for us back in Slove­nia.

h/t Erik B.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Sto­ry of Lorem Ipsum: How Scram­bled Text by Cicero Became the Stan­dard For Type­set­ters Every­where

Hear All of Finnegans Wake Read Aloud: A 35 Hour Read­ing

Watch La Lin­ea, the Pop­u­lar 1970s Ital­ian Ani­ma­tions Drawn with a Sin­gle Line

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Luke says:

    Glad to see this here! This is essen­tial­ly gram­melot put in music and a vari­a­tion on a long-exist­ing tra­di­tion of “mac­a­ron­ic lan­guage”: usu­al­ly you take exist­ing words in your own lan­guage and mod­i­fy them a bit to make them sound like anoth­er lan­guage, usu­al­ly for comedic effect. It’s a lit­er­ary tra­di­tion as well as some­thing that peo­ple do every­day for fun, and some­times seri­ous­ly when try­ing to speak anoth­er lan­guage with­out know­ing it too well (I do that for Span­ish!). It’s inter­est­ing to notice also that the Nobel-prize win­ner Dario Fo, anoth­er Ital­ian artist, was using sim­i­lar tech­niques in his the­atri­cal per­for­mances around the same time (late 60’s/early ’70s).

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