41

At the song Mary Poppins says to Bert

You can say it backwards, which is (garbled that doesn't sound right to my ears) but that's...

Is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious actually pronounced backwards correctly at this point?

  • 6
    Define correct. If you want to be pedantic, the only way to get "correct" backwards speech is to record it and then play the recording backwards. I doubt whether that sound would be reproducible by humans. Otherwise, you could write it in reverse and try to say that, or say each syllable in reverse order, or make something approximately backwards that can be sung... – jamesqf Jul 31 '18 at 16:30
  • 3
    Shouldn’t this be on Skeptics SE? ;) – Wildcard Jul 31 '18 at 19:25
  • 2
    For reference, the Spanish dubbing "latinized" the word as supercalifragilísticoespialidoso (quite close to the original, to be fair). However, while in Spain the backwards version is sodolipiaescotilisgifralicapersu, i.e. syllable-reversed, in Latin America it is osodilaipseocitsiligarfilacrepus, letter-reversed, which actually does sound like it was pronounced backwards (because Spanish). You can listen to the reversed audio here @ 0:35. – walen Aug 1 '18 at 8:48
  • 5
    Who are you going to believe, Mary Poppins or your lying ears? – David Moles Aug 1 '18 at 20:42
  • Is Mary Poppins on topic? Just because she can fly?? – ThePopMachine Oct 23 '18 at 15:50
48

No.

I don't have the script handy, but my recollection is that they created the "backwards version" by taking the original word, cutting it into chunks, and saying the chunks in reverse order. Something like:

doci-ali-expi-isti-fragi-cali-repus

The last chunk ("repus") actually is backwards, presumably to make it sound to the casual listener like the whole thing is backwards.

  • 3
    imsdb agrees with you, as does Springfield! Springfield! (although slight variation here) but this one does not. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 31 '18 at 8:08
  • @TheLethalCarrot it looks like IMSDB and Springfield! Springfield! are the 1964 movie scripts, while the one on the Centennial Auditorium website is the 2003 play. – rchard2scout Aug 1 '18 at 13:11
  • 1
    Sounds like the movie version linked in the other answer says "docious-ali-expeistic-fragicaliwupus". – Cees Timmerman Aug 1 '18 at 19:31
59

Yes - in the Broadway musical

where it is pronounced as per the libretto TheLethalCarrot posted a comment to: suoicodilaipxecitsiligarfilacrepus.

No - not in the 1964 film

where as F1Krazy rightly points out it is given as docialiexpiistifragicalirepus - i.e. mostly segmented into 2 syllable sections and then the order of those sections is reversed.

  • 23
    I'm not sure what "actually pronounced backwards correctly" even means. Are you? Spelling it backwards and "sounding it out" doesn't do the trick, you know. "Super" spelt backwards is "repus", which looks like it would rhyme with "creepers", which is how they say it, but that's not really revering the sounds in "super". – user14111 Jul 31 '18 at 10:12
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    You have a fair point. I suppose "actually pronouncing it backwards" would mean that all the phonemes are pronounced in the reverse order, so that e.g. the second consonant should be a voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant, which isn't the case in either of the examples given. Now I want to try to work out what it should be to actually pronounce it backwards. – Ty Hayes Jul 31 '18 at 10:24
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    @TyHayes: To truly pronounce it backwards means to create the actual sound waveform in reverse. This is not quite possible for humans; consider "star", where we can produce the boundary between "s" and "t" but not its reverse. – user21820 Jul 31 '18 at 12:45
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    @user21820 It may not be possible to produce the exact waveform backwards, but it's possible to create something close enough that it is recognizable when the recording is reversed: youtu.be/E_q7rZJljKY . – Ty Hayes Jul 31 '18 at 12:53
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    @user21820 Reversing the phonemes seems just as reasonable a definition for "pronouncing it backwards" as "reversing the waveform", if not more so. As you point out, reversed sound waves of human speech don't even sound like human-pronounced speech. And when we talk about reversing printed words, we usually mean reversing the order of the meaningful units (letters), not the reversing the physical representation of them; e.g. most palindromes aren't actually palindromes by that definition of reversing, because many of the reversed shapes are not even letters. – Ben Aug 1 '18 at 4:32

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