Who created supercalifragilisticexialidocious?

15 Nov

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As a child, I can well remember entering some sort of competition run by a milk company. I’m not sure what the link was, or even what the prizes were, but I do know it involved making as many words as you could from the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Now, it would be fair to say I poured my little heart and soul into the task. I literally went through the dictionary word by word, finding ones that matched. And yes, it took as long as you might imagine. So long I actually missed the deadline for entries. And was somehow still surprised I didn’t win.

Anyway, this chunk of history came to mind when I noticed the movie Mary Poppins listed in the TV guide.

I’ve never seen it – and am less likely to do so the more anyone tells me I ‘have’ to – but I do know it unveiled the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I decided to find out its origins.

The answer lay in an laist interview with Richard M Sherman, who wrote the score to the musical with his brother, Robert. Here’s the relevant bit…

How did you make up the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?

That’s a word we sort of concocted from our childhood when we used to make up double talk words. In the screenplay version of Mary Poppins we wanted her to give the children a gift they could bring back with them from inside the chalk drawing when they came out into the real world. If it was a tangible thing like a seashell or pine cone it would disappear. So we said “Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words? We could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids.” And that’s where it started. Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing. It just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks. All together you get supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Great explanation. Now, who feels like a spoonful of sugar?

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