Joe Clark at fawny has a post that starts off discussing the “nonsensical stream-of-delirium lyrics” of a rock song and ends with the question “Has the phenomenon of an appearance of making sense when nonsensical words are uttered in a certain prosody actually been studied?” I imagine it has, but I wouldn’t know; I did, however, greatly enjoy the Eric Idle routine called “Gibberish” that he quotes in extenso. Here’s the beginning:

HOST: Ham sandwich, bucket and water plastic Duralex rubber McFisheries underwear. Plugged rabbit emulsion, zinc custard without sustenance in kippling-duff geriatric scenery, maximizes press insulating government grunting sapphire-clubs incidentally. But tonight, sam pan Bombay Bermuda in diphtheria rustic McAlpine splendor, rabbit and foot-foot-phooey jugs rapidly big biro ruveliners musk-green gauges micturate with nipples and tiptoe rusting machinery, rustically inclined. Good evening and welcome.
GUEST: Hello.

I think I’ll use the line “Machine-wrapped, with butter” in any situation where it seems to apply, which may be more than one would think at first glance.


  1. Studied? I’m not so sure.. but it has been noted and commented on over at SpecGram:
    Speech Disorders as Indicators of Potential for Lyrical Success.

  2. Re: Trey: That link doesn’t work for me (indeed,
    fails on my machine), but Googling gives

  3. Siganus Sutor says

    It looks like the surrealist text one can sometimes find in spams. Are some song writers spam writers as well?

  4. “Gibberish” is on youtube:
    (well I think it is – I don’t have sound here)

  5. Excellent! It definitely gains from the presentation, and the end credits are great too.

  6. I like rustically inclined.
    That’s what I am, at the moment.

  7. marie-lucie says

    In at least two of Charlie Chaplin’s film there are instances “mock languages” made up of actual words but semantically gibberish.
    In The Great Dictator, the main language of the film is English but the Hitler character sometimes talks in “mock German” and even “mock dialect”. His speeches to huge crowds just string out German words (Wienerschnitzel!Sauerkraut! and the like) but with apparently convincing intonation. At a reception he speaks casually in English with guests but quotes a proverb from his home village, in what seems to be “mock dialect”, its distinctiveness emphasized by the fact that the last word consists only of a stressed umlauted u.
    In another film that I don’t remember the name of, at one point Charlie is a waiter in a nightclub and is called upon to sing a French song, but he can’t remember the words, so after pacing nervously for a while he bursts into “mock French”, again stringing out French words indiscriminately but with conviction. Unless you recognize some of the words in both cases, you would swear that he was actually speaking real German or French.

  8. Then there are the Wayans Brothers’ “Booked on Phonics” skits from In Living Colours, also available at Youtube.

  9. Ran.. thanks. That was a local link. Doh!

  10. Call it Dogg.
    In Tom Stoppard’s linked plays Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth, characters speak a language called Dogg which is composed of words that sound just like English words. He tells us that he derived the idea from “a section of Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations,” about the possibility of producing a false but satisfactory translation and how “the fact that [the parties] are using two different languages need not be apparent to either party.”
    In the first of the plays a condensed production of Hamlet is performed in English as a second language by native Dogg-speakers; in the second play the cast of Macbeth start to recite in Dogg.
    Dominoes, et dominoes, et dominoes/Popsies historical axle-greate, exacts bubbly fins crock lavender . . . .

  11. The Eater of Meaning has a mode for this effect:

  12. Chess gibberish: “White here takes the opportunity of duple deployment of bolobudginous hoplites, by mutual transposition of kindred hypothetics — the one in enfilade, the other in marmalade.”

    Full text of both plays.

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