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1965 U.S. vinyl single

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" /ˌspərˌkælɪˌfræɪˌlɪstɪkˌɛkspiˌælɪˈdʃəs/ (About this sound listen) 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.


Origin and meaning

The Oxford English Dictionary estimates that the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was first attested in the 1940s.[2] The roots of the word have been defined[3] as follows: super- "above", cali- "beauty", fragilistic- "delicate", expiali- "to atone", and -docious "educable", with the sum of these parts signifying roughly "Atoning for educability through delicate beauty." According to the film, in which the word gained its popularity, it 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. also notes that the word is "used as a nonsense word by children to express approval or to represent the longest word in English."[4]

The song's writers said the word originated from their memories of creating double-talk as children. "We remembered this wonderful word from our childhood," said Richard M. Sherman, who cowrote the song with his brother Robert, speaking in an episode of the Disney Family Album that told the story of the brothers' careers.[5] In a 2007 interview, Sherman said that the word's final version emerged over two weeks while they wrote the song.[6]

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.[2] One pun on the word jokes that Mahatma Gandhi was a "super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis".[7]

"Supercalifragilistic" is an abbreviation of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,"[8] originating in 1966, two years after the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was popularized in 1964.[9]

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 they 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.

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.[10]

Chart (1965) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 66
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[12] 14
US Cash Box Top 100[13] 80

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.[14]

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".

Legal action

In 1965, the song was the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit by songwriters Gloria Parker and Barney Young against Wonderland Music, who published the version of the song from the Walt Disney film.[15] The plaintiffs alleged that it was a copyright infringement of a 1951 song of their own called "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus". Also known as "The Super Song", "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus" was recorded by Alan Holmes and his New Tones on Columbia Records, vocal by Hal Marquess and the Holmes Men, music and lyrics by Patricia Smith (a Gloria Parker pen name). In addition, "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus" was recorded on Gloro Records (45) by The Arabian Knights. The Disney publishers won the lawsuit partially because affidavits were produced showing that "variants of the word were known ... many years prior to 1949".[16]

The first known appearance of the root or similar word (Supercaliflawjalisticexpialidoshus) is from an "A-Muse-ings" column by Helen Herman in The Syracuse Daily Orange (Syracuse University), March 10, 1931.[17][18] In it, columnist Herman muses about her made-up word.

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 Pattison 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.[19]

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.[20] The Guardian rated it as number 5 in six of the greatest football headlines.[21]

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".[22]

See also


  1. ^ The Making of Mary Poppins, 2004
  2. ^ a b "Home : Oxford English Dictionary". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  3. ^ by Richard Lederer in his book Crazy English
  4. ^ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - Define Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious at". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Disney Family Album August 1984 episode, part 3/3 on YouTube
  6. ^ "LAist Interview: Richard M. Sherman". LAist. Archived from the original on 10 April 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  7. ^ University of Oregon – Peter B Gilkey: Ten puns
  8. ^ "Supercalifragilistic - Define Supercalifragilistic at". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "Google Ngram Viewer". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 17. 
  11. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 17. 
  13. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, May 15, 1965
  14. ^ KTKA News: Mary Poppins involved in 44-year cover-up Archived July 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "The Straight Dope: Is "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" a real word referring to Irish hookers?". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  16. ^ "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: What does it mean?". BBC News. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Supercaliflawjalisticexpialidoshus – Daily Orange, March 10, 1931
  18. ^ Thinkmap, Inc. "Tracking Down the Roots of a "Super" Word". Retrieved 4 March 2016. 
  19. ^ "SUPER-CALIFRAGILISTIC-EXPIARI-DOCIOUSの歌詞 BOΦWY ORICON NEWS" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 29 October 2017. 
  20. ^ "Super Caley dream realistic?". BBC Sport. 22 March 2003. 
  21. ^ Scott Murray (12 December 2008). "The Joy of Six: great football headlines". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ Lowe, Sid (1 March 2018). "It's time to dream of Europe for La Liga's trio of great overachievers". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 

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