Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: Its Proper Pronunciation

Mary Poppins holds her hands out as blue butterflies fly past her. How Tos
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K. E. R. Robbins, aka Keaton Robbins

Tuesday, September 19, 2022

After the 1964 release of "Mary Poppins," the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" became part of the English language without much in the way of an explanation or definition. Since slang words are accepted by dictionary editors, it is not uncommon for new words to enter the cultural zeitgeist. In the film "Mary Poppins," an English nanny brings joy and discipline to the lives of a pair of wealthy children and their family.  

One of the most famous aspects of the movie is the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which was performed by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The word appears ten times in the song, but it still serves as a fun challenge for many listeners' tongues. Just how do you say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"? We guarantee that by the time you're done reading this article, you won't sound horrible.  

Inane, but Meaningful

Walt Disney and his own company hired a brother and sister to compose the score for Mary Poppins. Richard and Robert Sherman were brought on to score this classic film, and they got to work right away.  

Contrary to popular belief, this word did not originate in the song. In fact, it has been around since at least 1931, when it was likely first used by writer Helen Herman. Herman published that sugary nonsense phrase in an editorial for her college newspaper, "The Syracuse Daily Orange."  

It's a mystery how the Sherman brothers came to use the word in one of Julie Andrews' most famous songs. The brothers were sued for copyright infringement because of its use in any setting. A lawsuit was filed against Disney and the Sherman Brothers by the composers of a song called "Supercalafajalistickespialadojus," who claimed that their work was stolen.

With the history of the word put to rest, we can focus on its meaning. The term "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" now has an official definition in dictionaries all because of Mary Poppins. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" as an adjective meaning "extremely good."

The song's lyrics, "something to say when you have nothing to say," contradict this interpretation. ”

Julie Andrews and her then-husband added an improvised line to the song. Andrews had to practice to get it right, but she added to the hilarity by singing the word backward like a pro voice actor.  

Andrews admitted that she still uses the incorrect pronunciation during an interview with NPR to promote her autobiography. Her iconic performance as Mary Poppins has ensured that Andrews' acting career will live on for quite some time. In 2021, her song will be used as an audition song on "The Voice."

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is a long, complicated word that may as well be gibberish.

Clearly, then, this is incomprehensible nonsense.  

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" may sound like nonsense at first, but it has taught us that even the most ridiculous words can eventually come to mean something meaningful to everyone. That it was a word that even the Sherman brothers themselves might have used to pass the time as kids was an admission of its usefulness.  

Every parent knows this sort of behavior is to be expected from their children, especially when they are younger. After all, infants and toddlers often use nonsense words as they learn to speak.  

It's not uncommon for even identical twins to develop their own language for communicating. For decades, psychologists and speech pathologists have studied this phenomenon, which they call "cryptophasia."  

Therefore, the use of fictitious words is not a recent phenomenon. Maybe you're familiar with the term "neologism," which is defined as a "newly coined word or expression." This past 30 years have seen an explosion of Internet-related slang and new words.

Since its debut in "Mary Poppins," the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" has been widely accepted as a neologism.  

Why Is It So Difficult To Pronounce?  

For a first-time reader of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," the jumble of letters and unusual sounds may prove too much to process.

The word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" has 34 letters, making it not even the longest word in the dictionary. The 45-letter medical term "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" takes the cake (you can try pronouncing it, though).  

But if you are one of the many people who have trouble pronouncing "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," a road map may be your best bet.  

Directions for Correctly Pronouncing Names and Places

Vocalists and students alike can benefit from having a difficult word dissected into its component parts. Educators and speech therapists use the term "decoding" to describe this process. For those who struggle with reading, this strategy is a great way to get over the hump. Here, we'll put that to use to help you channel Mary Poppins:

To break this down, let's focus on the prefix "super." ” 

Now that we have that covered, we can move on to the term "cali" Our Californian friends are already familiar with this one.

We now have a "fragilistic Like the word "fragile," but with "listic" added to the end.  

Following "Expi," It's easy to stumble over this letter on your way to pronouncing the whole word.  

Also, from here on out, "ali This component is pronounced just like the word "ally. We are closing in on the home stretch.

Finally, we've reached the term "docious." This is a challenging section, but it should be pronounced doe-shus. ”

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is finally a complete word. It's easier to pronounce if you break it down into its component parts.  

The best way to learn the correct pronunciation is to practice saying it quickly over and over.  

If you'd rather not use our map, the Broadway musical version of the song is always there to help.  


Whether you're a voice actor or not, this guide will get you well on your way to pronouncing "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." If you have our decoding tools in your toolbelt, pronouncing the word shouldn't be too difficult of a task. So, follow these guidelines to go from terrible to brilliant while carrying an upbeat song in your head.

If you want to know how to imitate a female voice, this guide is for you.

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Robert Keaton Robbins

Keaton was formerly the editor of the Toronto Sun and the Ottawa Sun. He has done commentary for sports networks like Leafs TV, NBA TV Canada, and TSN. Before joining Voices, he worked at Shopify and EventConnect, where he caught the tech bug. Keaton completed the Journalism program at Humber College, where he focused on TV and the web.

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