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Before there was yaourter, there was Prisencolinensinainciusol, an amazing 1972 double-talk proto-rap by Adriano Celentano, channeling the Elvis of some parallel universe:

Here's the earlier (?) black-and-white sound-stage version, with a nice harmonica solo at the end:

And a more recent TV version, in which Celentano's hair has considerably receded, and there is some discussion (in Italian) afterwards:

Sasha Frere-Jones ("Stop making sense", The New Yorker, 4/29/2008) suggests: "[M]ore classroom settings for pop stars to parse their own material, please. An hour a month would be enough."

[via MetaFilter]

Update: Some perhaps non-blocked versions:



  1. Stan Carey said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 8:35 am

    I've been listening to this all weekend. It's very celebratory and irresistibly playful. I would say it puts the top 40 singles chart to shame, but I really have no idea. Seems a safe assumption though.

    Thanks for the interview video; I'll try to watch it with a native Italian speaker.

  2. Darcy Prise said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 8:39 am

    Much better audio (and more entertainment) can be found on this remixed version: Prisencolinensinainciusol (Oll Raigth)

  3. gribley said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 11:39 am

    good lord, that's amazing, and remarkably prescient in hip-hop terms, predating almost anything I'd identify as clearly being rap. Can we get a hip-hop scholar in the house, please?

  4. giotto said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

    This and hip-hop might share a common ancestor, that being toasting, which in turn has roots in West African traditions. Some say Jamaican toasting is a major influence on hip-hop, via dancehall. It's route to Italy is the question. I would start looking in Brazil. . .

  5. Alif Ba said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

    More yaourter:

  6. Sili said,

    October 25, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

    Would it be subversive to try to … de-yaourtify into parsable English?

    For some reason I'm reminded of sixth form chemistry. We were much too amused by restressing ,kalium'permanganat,opløsning (solution of potassium permanganate) into ,kali'umper,manganato,pløsning.

  7. Bheema V. said,

    October 26, 2009 @ 4:05 am

    I realize that it is all nonsense, but is this supposed to sound like English?

    Or is it that among the languages I know, the set of syllables/ sounds in the song is most similar to English, and thus, what I hear is something that sounds like English, but isn't?

  8. codeman38 said,

    October 26, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    For a bit of yaourter à la japonaise, see the opening theme to the anime Hellsing:
    "The World Without Logos"

    Here's a page with the official lyrics as transcribed in the Japanese and American soundtrack CDs, along with various fans' attempts at interpretation.

  9. uberVU - social comments said,

    October 27, 2009 @ 1:49 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by languagelog: Prisencolinensinainciusol: Before there was yaourter, there was Prisencolinensinainciusol, an amazing 1972 doub..

  10. Toberoni said,

    October 27, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    I added some subtitles:

  11. Acilius said,

    October 27, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    Good job, Toberoni! Please don't call the National Twosome.

  12. Toberoni said,

    October 27, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

    Must be Obama and Biden…


  13. Acilius said,

    October 28, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    Or Berlusconi and Fini. In either case, don't call them, alright!

  14. James said,

    October 29, 2009 @ 4:07 am

    This is the best song ever. I feel lucky to be alive. I take back all the bad stuff I ever said about the internet, Italy, and Language Log.

  15. Angus Grieve-Smith said,

    December 20, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

    Just came across this post. It might not have been called "yaourter" back then, but Tabarin was doing pastiches of foreign-sounding nonsense words in 1622.

    I've heard at least two English speakers doing something similar with Italian-sounding words in English. Many of them use actual Italian words, just strung together in nonsensical ways, like Bohemian Rhapsody.

    Here are a few other examples of songs with nonsense lyrics that sort of sound like another language:
    "I Zimbra" by Talking Heads, which borrowed its Niger-Congo-sounding lyrics from a poem by the German Dadaist Hugo Ball.

    The Police songs "Masoko Tanga," "Regatta de Blanc," "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" and "J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi."

    From a Metafilter post about "Prisencolinensinainciusol", a song called "Macarron Chacarron" by a Panamanian duo named El Chombo.

  16. Terminologia etc. » » Canzoni, anglicismi e mondegreen said,

    May 17, 2010 @ 3:02 am

    […] ha goduto di qualche notorietà negli Stati Uniti: ne hanno parlato tra gli altri The New Yorker, Language Log e Boing […]

  17. Elliott said,

    June 3, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

    That shows how music has regressed since 1972. The remade tracks are just a sequenced loop that sounds amazingly bland compared to the original.

  18. Giuseppe said,

    June 16, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    Celentano is one of the most famous singers here in Italy. Whenever he appears on TV it will be a major event.
    "Prisencolinensinanciusol" was a huge success here, but not immediately. Now it is a classic. I'm happy that somebody rediscovered him in the U.S. also.

  19. Maria said,

    August 26, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    What's being said in Italian in the classroom scene before the music starts?

  20. Gene said,

    May 2, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

    "predating almost anything I'd identify as clearly being rap. Can we get a hip-hop scholar in the house, please?"

    Not a scholar, but this from 1968:

  21. David said,

    March 4, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    How cool that well over three years later this post is still garnering comments.

    So that is supposedly what English sounds like to Italians. At least one artist’s representation thereof, and also presumably not to English-speaking Italians. I would be interested in a series of these – what German sounds like to Americans, what Italian sounds like to Swedes, etc.

    Suppose there is a function S(L,N) which evaluates to “what language L sounds like to non-L speakers of nationality N.” I would wager that changing N while holding L constant introduces almost as much variation in the result as does changing L while holding N constant.

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