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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

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1965 U.S. vinyl single

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" /ˌsjpərˌkælɪˌfræɪˌlɪstɪkˌɛkspiˌælɪˈdʃəs/ (About this soundlisten) is a song from the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins. The song was written by the Sherman Brothers, and sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It also appears in the stage show version. Because Mary Poppins was a period piece set in 1910, songs that sounded similar to songs of the period were wanted.[1] The movie version finished at #36 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

Story context

The song occurs in the chalk-drawing outing animated sequence, just after Mary Poppins wins a horse race. Flush with her victory, she is immediately surrounded by reporters who pepper her with leading questions and comment that she probably is at a loss for words. Mary disagrees, suggesting that at least one word is appropriate for the situation, and begins the song.

Word meaning and origin

According to the film, in which the word gained its popularity, the word is defined as "something to say when you have nothing to say". However, it is commonly defined as "extraordinarily good" or "wonderful", as all references to the word in the film can be perceived as positive. Dictionary.com further notes that the word is "used as a nonsense word by children to express approval or to represent the longest word in English."[2]

An analysis of the individual word elements produces another definition. Richard Lederer, in his book Crazy English, defines the word roots as follows: super- "above", cali- "beauty", fragilistic- "delicate", expiali- "to atone", and -docious "educable", which, he writes, produces an overall meaning of "atoning for extreme and delicate beauty [while being] highly educable".[3]

The song's writers have, over time, given several conflicting explanations for the word's origin, in one instance claiming to have coined it themselves, based on their memories of having created double-talk words as children.[4] In another instance, they write:

When we were little boys in the mid-1930’s, we went to a summer camp in the Adirondack Mountains, where we were introduced to a very long word that had been passed down in many variations through many generations of kids. … The word as we first heard it was super-cadja-flawjalistic-espealedojus.[5]

The first known appearance in writing of a variation of what is clearly the same word (in this case with a spelling of "supercaliflawjalisticexpialadoshus") is from an "A-Muse-ings" column by Helen Herman in The Syracuse Daily Orange (Syracuse University), dated March 10, 1931.[6][7] In the column, Herman states that the word "implies all that is grand, great, glorious, splendid, superb, wonderful".

Legal action

In 1965, the song was the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit by songwriters Gloria Parker and Barney Young against Wonderland Music, Disney's music publishing subsidiary, and publisher of the song from the film.[8] The plaintiffs alleged that it was a copyright infringement of a 1949 song of their own called "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus". Also known as "The Super Song", "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus" was recorded by Alan Holmes and His New Tones for Columbia Records, with vocal by Hal Marquess and the Holmes Men, and music and lyrics by Patricia Smith (a Gloria Parker pen name) and Don Fenton. Another recording of "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus", performed by The Arabian Knights and published by Gloro Records, was released in 1951. The Disney publishers won the lawsuit in part because they produced affidavits showing that "variants of the word were known ... many years prior to 1949".[9]

Backwards version

During the song, Poppins says, "You know, you can say it backwards, which is 'dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes', but that's going a bit too far, don't you think?"

Her claim was not about spelling it backwards, but saying it backwards; if one breaks the word into several sections or prosodic feet ("super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious") and recites them in reverse sequence, and also modifies "super" to "rupes", it comes close to what Poppins said in the film.

However, when the word is spelled backwards it actually becomes "suoicodilaipxecitsiligarfilacrepus", which is different.[10]

In the stage musical, the word's actual spelling reversal[clarification needed] is used, while rapper Ghostface Killah said "dociousaliexpilisticfragicalisuper", which is the full prosody version, in his song "Buck 50" released on his album Supreme Clientele.[11]

Chart history

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was released as a single, achieving a measure of commercial success on the U.S. music charts. It peaked at number 66 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It did much better on the Adult Contemporary chart, reaching number 14.[12]

Chart (1965) Peak
position
US Billboard Hot 100[13] 66
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[12] 14
US Cash Box Top 100[14] 80

Stage musical

In the stage musical, Mary Poppins takes Jane and Michael Banks to visit Mrs Corry's shop to buy "an ounce of conversation", only to find that Mrs Corry has run out of conversation. She does, however have some letters, and Jane and Michael each pick out seven, with Mary choosing one also. As Bert, Mary and the rest of the ensemble struggle to create words out of the fifteen letters, Mary reminds them that they can always use the same letter more than once, and creates the word (and song) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. In addition, the cast spells it out in a kind of gesture that was suggested by choreographer Stephen Mear, whose partner is deaf.[citation needed]

Other references

English yachtsman Rodney Pattisson won three Olympic medals in sailing during the Games of 1968 (gold), 1972 (gold) and 1976 (silver) in a Flying Dutchman called Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious written in large colorful waves on the hull.

Japanese rock band Boøwy included a song called "SUPER-CALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIARI-DOCIOUS" that was written by their guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei on their 1986 number one album Beat Emotion.[15]

In February 2000, Inverness Caledonian Thistle defeated Glasgow's Celtic FC 3-1 in the third round of the Scottish Cup football competition. The result, one of the biggest ever upsets in Scottish football, led to the famous newspaper headline "Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious" by The Sun.[16] The Guardian rated it as number 5 in six of the greatest football headlines.[17]

One pun on the word jokes that Mahatma Gandhi was a "super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis".[18]

In 2018, Girona manager Pablo Machín was asked to describe his club, using only one word. He responded "Ok, I’ll use the longest word I know: supercalifragilisticoespialidoso".[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ The Making of Mary Poppins (2004) on IMDb
  2. ^ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. ^ Lederer, Richard (1998). Crazy English : the ultimate joy ride through our language. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0671023232.
  4. ^ Richard M. Sherman (November 2, 2007). "LAist Interview: Richard M. Sherman". LAist (Interview). Interviewed by Brad Herman. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ Sherman, Robert B.; Sherman, Richard M. (1998). Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond (1st ed.). Santa Clarita, CA: Camphor Tree. ISBN 978-0964605930.
  6. ^ Helen Herman (March 10, 1931). "A-Muse-ings". Daily Orange.
  7. ^ Ben Zimmer (April 23, 2012). "Tracking Down the Roots of a "Super" Word". Visual Thesaurus. Thinkmap, Inc. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Is "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" a real word referring to Irish hookers?". The Straight Dope. August 6, 2002. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: What does it mean?". BBC News. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  10. ^ "KTKA News: Mary Poppins involved in 44-year cover-up". Archived from the original on July 27, 2011.
  11. ^ "Ghostface Killah (Ft. Cappadonna, Method Man & Redman) – Buck 50". Genius. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  12. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1993). Joel Whitburn's Top Adult Contemporary 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 17.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1994). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990. Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-089-X.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles". May 15, 1965.
  15. ^ "SUPER-CALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIARI-DOCIOUSの歌詞 BOΦWY ORICON NEWS" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Super Caley dream realistic?". BBC Sport. 22 March 2003.
  17. ^ Scott Murray (12 December 2008). "The Joy of Six: great football headlines". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Peter B Gilkey (2 May 2004). "Subject: 10 PUNS".
  19. ^ Lowe, Sid (1 March 2018). "It's time to dream of Europe for La Liga's trio of great overachievers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2018.

External links