bibbity ~ bibbidi, bobbity ~ bobbidi

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Manohla Dargis, "In ‘Cinderella,’ Disney Polishes Its Glass Slippers", NYT:

You know the rest, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo and all that jazz.

My reaction when I read that was, Gee, interesting re-spelling of Bibbity Bobbity Boo, in line with the standard American flapping and voicing of non-syllable-initial /t/. But it turns out that I'm about 66 years too late.

The Wikipedia entry assumes without discussion that  "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" is the correct spelling:

"Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (also called "The Magic Song")[1] is a novelty song, written in 1948 by Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston. It was introduced in the 1950 film Cinderella, performed by actress Verna Felton.

Ilene Woods and The Woodsmen with Harold Mooney and His Orchestra recorded it in Hollywood on October 26, 1949. It was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 31-00138B and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog numbers B 9970, SG 2371, HM 3755 and JM 2678.

And the label from the RCA 1949 single by Ilene Woods and the Woodsmen confirms this:

In my defense, I guess that I never saw the song title or lyrics written out, and just assumed that the spelling would follow normal English orthographic conventions, as per the children's counting-out rhyme that the words were probably inspired by:

Ibbity, bibbity, sibbity, sab, Ibbity, bibbity, kanella !

Others over the years have made the same assumption that I did, e.g.

John Rendell, "HIBBERDS TRIUMPH IN JUNIOR REGATTA; Rye Youngsters Finish First in Lightning and Bulldog Classes at Larchmont", NYT 7/15/1953:

Or Stephen Holden, "Taking pop songs apart", NYT 9/29/1989:

Who exactly are Chris Durang and Dawne? For years, Mr. Durang explains, they have been playing the Ramada Inn circuit, trying to satisfy requests for everything from Guns 'n' Roses to Rodgers and Hammerstein. The selections in their 15-song "Ramada Inn Medley" range from "Dreamgirls" to "La Bamba," from "A Man and a Woman" to ''Bibbity Bobbity Boo,'' from "Marat, We're Poor" (performed with pink fake-fur boas) to "MacArthur Park." Cabaret war horses like "Memory," "Misty" and "My Way" are not overlooked. But at its most adventurous, the trio likes to update vintage show tunes by adding modern touches. Thus "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" becomes a stuttering hiphop number that features a "fa-fa-fa-fa-fringe."



  1. Keith Ivey said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

    I had no idea either, though I did know that it's not "Zippity Doo Da".

  2. Rubrick said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

    Disneyland has a (correctly spelled, of course) Bibbidy Bobbidi Boutique.

    By contrast, I was dismayed when I discovered at Universal Studios theme park years ago that they had retconned "gigawatt" from Back to The Future into the fictional "jigawatt", presumably because the hard-G pronunciation of the former was winning the battle for mindshare. (Extreme first-world dismay, I'll grant.)

  3. Ray Girvan said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

    This reminds me: a long time back I had occasion to answer a question where someone was wondering what "Tssalakadula metsikabuula pipedi papedi pu" meant in Finnish. It turned out be nothing to do with Finnish per se, but is just a Finnish transliteration of the nonsense words at the beginning of the first line of the song.

  4. Jon said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

    I've never heard that counting rhyme, but it reminded me of one that I knew as a child (London, 1950s). I was astonished that I couldn't find it on the net, even trying various spellings. As I remember it, it went: Olliker bollicker oozy olliker, ollicker bollicker nob.

  5. Brett said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

    I remember experiencing the same surprise when I learned the spelling of the song. I find it especially odd, since there are points in the song when the lyrics are enunciated very clearly, to the extent that you ought to be able to distinguish between "bibbidi" and "bibbity."

  6. Jon said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 6:54 pm

    Spoke too soon, now found it, but only one website:
    Spitalfields is in London. Slightly different wording, suzie sollicker in the middle instead of oozy ollicker.

  7. m.pipik said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

    Just try singing Bibbiti, Bobbiti. The lyricist or Disney might have said, "what the hell, it's going to end up as bibbidi, bobbidi so let's just make it official.

  8. Michael Johnson said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 2:54 am

    That's funny, I thought it was "bippity boppity boo".

  9. rob said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 3:13 am

    That brought back some very early memories (1950s).
    In my case there is a D. But also an L:

    Ibbledy bibbledy bibbledey spout
    Bibbledy spout karela
    Karela in karela out
    Karela over the bibbledey spout.

    I have no idea where my father got it from, nor do I know the spelling.

  10. Pflaumbaum said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 9:47 am

    Brett said –

    I find it especially odd, since there are points in the song when the lyrics are enunciated very clearly, to the extent that you ought to be able to distinguish between "bibbidi" and "bibbity."

    But most Americans probably don't make a distinction between these two, even in clearly enunciated speech. MYL has discussed this before, e.g. here

    In comments he wrote:

    Let's stipulate that you *think* you distinguish between "ladder" and "latter". It's possible that you do pronounce them differently, but the fact that you believe that you pronounce them differently is, you'll find if you check, surprisingly bad evidence.

  11. Eugene van der Pijll said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 1:39 pm


    Your Olliker bollicker verse is perhaps related to a wellknown Dutch nonsense rhyme, Olleke Bolleke. Though it doesn't have the exact same text, the metre seems the same.

    The wikipedia page doesn't mention an English version, unfortunately.

  12. Robert Coren said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

    Tangentially but not unrelatedly, just today somebody posted a photo of a walrus on Facebook, and one of the comments was "I am that walrus", to which someone else replied "Ku-ku-ka-chu!" I refrained from pointing out that, to the best of my recollection, the
    lyrics printed on the the album jacket of "Magical Mystery Tour" have it as "googoogajoob".

  13. Jon said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 4:13 pm

    Thanks very much for that, it's clearly the origin of the rhyme I knew. The Bing translator says that Ollekebolleke means oak in Dutch, but the rest of it seems to be meaningless. Maybe the rhythm of the word Ollekebolleke invited someone to elaborate it into a little rhyme.

  14. Keith Ivey said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 6:58 pm

    Robert Coren, "Koo-koo-ka-choo" occurs in the lyrics to "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel.

  15. Matt said,

    March 15, 2015 @ 8:04 pm

    And yet I can clearly hear Disney's Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton, I see from Wikipedia) singing it with unmistakable [t]s in my mind's ear. Retroactive hypercorrection!

  16. Nathan said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 9:21 am

    @Matt: I was sure I remembered the same thing as you, with clearly aspirated [t]s. So I checked YouTube and found I was wrong.

  17. Brett said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 9:39 am

    @Matt and Nathan: I thought that too, and I just listened and I was wrong. I always knew that I didn't make the relevant distinction in my own speech, but I believe that other speakers did.

  18. Robert Coren said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 10:14 am

    @Keith Ivey: True, but that doesn't make an appropriate response to a post about a walrus.

  19. J. W. Brewer said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 10:49 am

    I was interested to see that the most common online transcription of the lyrics to the song "Dirty Ass Rock 'n' Roll" (by John Cale OBE, first released 1975) gives one line as "Make a man's heart go bibbity-bom bippity-bom bippity-bom." Now, transcription quality is often low (and sometimes mondegreen-infested) at these online sites compiling rock lyrics in an informal/unlicensed way, and errors tend to propagate from site to site via uncritical cut-and-paste, but it's still interesting that the bb v. pp orthographic choice was not made internally consistent. I 'd probably go for "bippity" myself, while realizing that it was semi-arbitrary, but I'd definitely pick *something* and stick to it. (I think it's highly unlikely that there's a subtle difference in pronunciation between the first and subsequent occurrences of bibbity/bippity, but both the studio version and some recent live performances can be found on youtube if anyone wants to do a spectrogram analysis.)

    Cale was, fwiw, reputedly a monolingual Welsh speaker until he was around 7 but I've never noticed anything odd in his English syntax or word choice (beyond the oddities inherent in rock lyrics as a genre) that I would attribute to that, and like a lot of British rock singers the regional features in his accent are much more noticeable when he's speaking in an interview context than when he's actually singing. And I don't know (which is not to say that I would) of any features of Welsh phonology that would make a Welshman handle distinctions among bibbidy/bippity/etc differently from other Anglophones.

  20. Sean Bentley said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

    Don't forget Marc Bolan's variation, "boppida boppida booboo" here:

  21. svan said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

    @Michael Johnson – Me too, and I can very clearly here it that way in my mind.

  22. Breffni said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 5:10 pm

    I'm surprised that this has come as a surprise. Uncyclopedia has a state-of the art article which is quite explicit on this point:

    Shoobee doo wop wop Whoa whoa. Salagadoola mechicka boola:
    – Bibbidi
    – Bobbidi
    – Boo
    Shoobee doobee doodah day [etc.]

  23. J. W. Brewer said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

    Sean Bentley, one major lyrics site has that transcribed as "One and two and bubbly-bubbly-boo-boo yeah," which is . . . implausible. Maybe mondegreenish? (Other sites don't bother to transcribe the count-off at all, even though this isn't the only song Bolan did with an eccentric one, and it's part of his charm.)

  24. Matt said,

    March 16, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

    Yes, in case I wasn't clear, I knew that despite the absolute crystal clarity of my memory it had to be incorrect. I meant that my memories were hypercorrected, not Felton's performance. A good reminder of the dangers of linguistics by introspection alone — you might not even be correctly remembering your data, let alone appropriately interpreting it.

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