On Prisencolinensinainciusol and Communicating For “a Better Tomorrow”

What does English sound like to foreigners? Or rather, what did English slang sound like  to an Italian pop singer in 1972? This video upload contains both the classroom introduction (with the subtitles below!) and the full music video released later.


[See video description for all credits.]

This song by Adriano Celentano entitled “Prisencolinensinainciusol” was originally released in 1972 by The Harry Fox Agency, Inc.

…Even without meaning to say any real words, a YouTube user managed to find English sentences throughout the whole song! (See it at http://youtu.be/S00Br2SSrY8 if you like.)

It’s quite easy to take saying words to someone for granted.  Mary Mitchell, a consultant in professional interpersonal communications, shares that when talking face-to-face our words constitute only EIGHT percent of what the person hears. The rest is in our tone of voice (37%) and our body language (a whopping 55%). This is evidenced by this Cingular commercial:

My boss pulled this routine on me personally when I swung by to ask a casual question. In answering, I thought he was furious with me, based on his tone and body language! But then laughing at my startled response, he asked, “Did you hear what I SAID?”

The realm of written communication adds new layers of challenges. I was studying in Costa Rica when the big 9.0 Japanese earthquake and tsunami hit. Everyone in my costal city was alarmed, and some were heading for the hills! They thought that a tidal wave could come later in the day as a result of the earthquake. The news stations also said it was a possibility and advised us to stay posted. After I finished my test in class, I got online to see if I should also head for the hills, or simply study for my next test. All of the local sources said that the biggest possible wave in Costa Rica would be just three feet- nothing to worry about. I thought of my family and friends back home, who may have been concerned about me. I went to Facebook to update my status. I could have said, “Hey everyone! Don’t worry about me in Costa Rica, as there’s not going to be a tsunami here from the Japanese earthquake.”

But, as a fan of brevity and elegance, I merely said “I’m not too concerned about the tsunami.”

Oops. Without any context, many thought that I wasn’t concerned about the tsunami in JAPAN that would leave over 25,000 people dead, injured, or missing.

Needless to say I posted a clarifying apology.

The point is, we must be proactive and intentional with our communication. I have watched a family that is close to me go through two divorces. As far as I can see, the lack of communication was the number one cause.  Most everyone assumed that the others knew their feelings and never actually said anything about them! Tensions boiled up inside, and for some they resulted in passive-aggressive behavior, verbal explosions, or withdrawal from family life. What a hard lesson on the importance of communication! Had there been communication without fear and resentment, and with the goal of building up understanding for a happier tomorrow, most of the pain would have been avoided.

I still make mistakes, but I always work to listen to myself through other people’s ears. I ask myself, what are the contexts of what I am about to say, and what would people understand of my message, without those contexts? As another example something else I’m working on is being more intentional with my body language. Did you know that sitting back with your palms facing up helps others to be receptive to what you have to say? There are whole degrees in communication, and for good reason!

Do you have any ideas on how to work towards “a happier tomorrow” with better, more intentional communication? I invite your participation.


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