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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1964 US single
Single by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke
from the album Mary Poppins: Original Cast Soundtrack
B-side"A Spoonful of Sugar"
Released1964 (1964)
GenreMusical, show tune
Songwriter(s)Sherman Brothers

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (/ˌspərˌkælɪˌfræɪˌlɪstɪkˌɛkspiˌælɪˈdʃəs/ SOO-pər-KAL-ih-FRAJ-ih-LISS-tik-EKS-pee-AL-ih-DOH-shəss) is a song and single from the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins. It was written by the Sherman Brothers, and sung by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.[1] It also appears in the 2004 stage show version. Because Mary Poppins was a period piece set in 1910, songs that sounded similar to songs of the period were wanted.[2] The movie version finished at #36 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

Story context[edit]

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 questions and suggest that she is at a loss for words. Mary disagrees, saying that at least one word is appropriate for the situation, and begins the song with this very long, hard to say word.

Word meaning and general origin[edit]

The word is a compound word, and said by Richard Lederer in his book Crazy English to be made up of these words: super- "above", cali- "beauty", fragilistic- "delicate", expiali- "to atone", and -docious "educable", with all of these parts combined meaning "Atoning for being educable through delicate beauty."[3]

The Oxford English Dictionary first records the word (with a spelling of "supercaliflawjalisticeexpialadoshus") in the column titled "A-muse-ings" by Helen Herman in the Syracuse University Daily Orange, dated March 10, 1931.[4][5] In the column, Herman states that the word "implies all that is grand, great, glorious, splendid, superb, wonderful".[6][7]

The word was popularized in the 1964 film Mary Poppins,[4] in which it is used as the title of a song and defined as "something to say when you don't know what to say".

The Sherman Brothers, who wrote the Mary Poppins song, have 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.[8] In another instance, they wrote:

When we were little boys in the mid-1930s, 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.[9]

Dictionary.com meanwhile says it is "used as a nonsense word by children to express approval or to represent the longest word in English."[10] The word contains 34 letters and 14 syllables.

Legal action[edit]

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.[11] The plaintiffs alleged that it was a copyright infringement of their 1949 song "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus". Also known as "The Super Song", it 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.[4][12] 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".[12]

Backwards version[edit]

During the song, Poppins says, "You know, you can say it backwards, which is 'dociousaliexpilistic-fragilcalirupus', but that's going a bit too far, don't you think?" (To which Dick Van Dyke replies, "Indubitably.") Andrews' husband, Tony Walton, who also designed the sets and costumes, came up with the backwards version.

Her claim was not about spelling it backwards, but rather saying it backwards; in other words, 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 "rupus", it comes close to what Poppins said in the film. However, when the word is spelled backwards it actually becomes "suoicodilaipxecitsiligarfilacrepus", which is different.[13]

In the stage musical, the word's actual spelling reversal is used, while rapper Ghostface Killah said "docious-ali-expi-listic-fragi-cali-super", which is the full prosody version, in his song "Buck 50" released on his album Supreme Clientele.[14]

Chart history[edit]

"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.[15]

Chart (1965) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 66
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[15] 14
US Cash Box Top 100[17] 80


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[18] Silver 200,000
United States (RIAA)[19] Gold 500,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Stage musical[edit]

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[edit]

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.[20]

Punk band The Vandals covered the song on their 1995 album Live Fast, Diarrhea.

In 1997, The Simpsons had an episode parodying Mary Poppins named "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", with "(Annoyed Grunt)" being the technical term for the interjection "D'oh!".

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 newspaper headline "Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious" by The Sun.[21] The Guardian rated it as number 5 in six of the greatest football headlines.[22]

In the House of Mouse episode, "Goofy for a Day", Goofy plays a musical number for helping his son Max titles "Soup or Salad, Fries or Biscuits", who is a parody of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".

One pun on the word jokes that Mahatma Gandhi was a "super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis".[23]

In 2011, a group of fans of the webcomic Homestuck produced an album of songs called Land of Fans and Music. One such track is a parody titled "SadoMasoPedoRoboNecroBestiality". According to the vocalist, Goatmon, the lyrics were adapted from a post on the Something Awful forums.[24]

In 2016, Randy Rainbow created a parody video of the song, in which he called (then-candidate) Donald Trump "super callous fragile egocentric braggadocious", "super careless fragile ego extra braggadocious", "super sleazy fabricating sexist and obnoxious", "superficial chauvinistic arrogant and thoughtless", and "super calculated adolescent braggadocious".[25]

In 2017, Dick Van Dyke was selected to receive an award for television excellence from BAFTA, at which time he said "I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema." A chief executive of Bafta responded, "We look forward to his acceptance speech in whatever accent he chooses on the night. We have no doubt it will be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."[26]

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".[27]

In 2021, a cover was sung by Hololive's virtual idols Momosuzu Nene and Pavolia Reine, with the latter singing the word during the rap part.[28]

In 2021, the game show Press Your Luck introduced a Whammy animation spoofing the song, with "Whammy Poppins" singing "Supercalifragilistic-give me all your money!"[29]

In September 2022, Japanese boyband JO1 pre-released the song "SuperCali" from their EP single, Midnight Sun. The title is abbreviation of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", which was introduced as the word that "makes infinite possibilities come true" at their tour.[30]

During the Season 9 Premiere of The Masked Singer, Dick Van Dyke sang the song after being eliminated in the season 9 premiere.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hischak, Thomas S.; Robinson, Mark A. (2009). The Disney Song Encyclopedia. Scarecrow Press. p. 189. ISBN 9780810869387.
  2. ^ The Making of Mary Poppins (2004) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ Lederer, Richard (June 1998). Crazy English. Simon and Schuster. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-43-913894-6.
  4. ^ a b c "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, adj". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ "The Real Origin of 'Supercalifragilistic'". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  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. ^ Richard M. Sherman (November 2, 2007). "LAist Interview: Richard M. Sherman". LAist (Interview). Interviewed by Brad Herman. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  9. ^ Sherman, Robert B.; Sherman, Richard M. (1998). Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond (1st ed.). Santa Clarita, CA: Camphor Tree. ISBN 978-0964605930.
  10. ^ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Is "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" a real word referring to Irish hookers?". The Straight Dope. August 6, 2002. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: What does it mean?". BBC News. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  13. ^ "KTKA News: Mary Poppins involved in 44-year cover-up". Archived from the original on July 27, 2011.
  14. ^ "Ghostface Killah (Ft. Cappadonna, Method Man & Redman) – Buck 50". Genius. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1993). Joel Whitburn's Top Adult Contemporary 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 17.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1994). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990. Record Research. ISBN 978-0-89820-089-8.
  17. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles". May 15, 1965. Archived from the original on May 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  18. ^ "British single certifications – Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  19. ^ "American single certifications – Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (feat. The Pearlie Chorus)". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  20. ^ "SUPER-CALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIARI-DOCIOUSの歌詞 BOΦWY ORICON NEWS" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Super Caley dream realistic?". BBC Sport. 22 March 2003.
  22. ^ Scott Murray (12 December 2008). "The Joy of Six: great football headlines". The Guardian.
  23. ^ Peter B Gilkey (2 May 2004). "Subject: 10 PUNS".
  24. ^ "Land of Fans and Music [UNOFFICIAL ALBUM], by The Homestuck Fan Musicians". Homestuck Gaiden. Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  25. ^ Gross, Terry (17 July 2019). "Satirist Randy Rainbow Uses Show Tunes And Pop Songs To Lampoon Trump".
  26. ^ Khomami, Nadia (July 21, 2017). "Dick Van Dyke sorry for 'atrocious cockney accent' in Mary Poppins". The Guardian. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 【Cover】愛Dee (Ai Dee) / Pavolia Reine × Momosuzu Nene. Pavolia Reine Ch. hololive-ID. 9 July 2021. Archived from the original on 23 July 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022 – via YouTube.
  29. ^ "Exclusive Clip: New WHAMMY Animation Reveal from "Press Your Luck" Season 3". 26 May 2021.
  30. ^ "JO1が福岡で新曲「SuperCali」初披露、地元凱旋の川尻蓮は「JAMは0を1にする力がある」と涙". Natalie. 23 September 2022. Archived from the original on 27 September 2022. Retrieved 27 September 2022.

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