Pink Elephants

by Mort Dixon and Harry Woods (1932, James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection)

Mort Dixon and Harry Woods’ silly song, composed as America’s Prohibition movement was reaching its end, portrays the hallucinations frequently encountered by people overly intoxicated. While such states of delirium were common responses from drug and alcohol withdrawal, the condition was often euphemistically called “seeing pink elephants” to denote drunkenness.

A sheet music cover depicting a man with a background of pink elephants behind him.
“Pink Elephants” (1932)
“Pink Elephants” by Mort Dixon and Harry Woods, Performed by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, recorded October 7, 1932.

Nine years later the 1941 Disney animated film, Dumbo, popularized this phrase when the main character and his travelling companion, Timothy Q. Mouse, accidentally drink a barrel of alcohol and hallucinate dancing pink elephants on parade.  Dixon and Wood’s song begins,

Pink elephants on the window,
Pink elephants on the sill,
An elephant on the side board, 
Was kissing a whipporwill!
I saw a monkey dancing with a purple clock
The cuckoo came out of the clock and said Meow,
Pink elephants on my trousers, 
Pink elephants on my coat! 
A polka dot boa constrictor, 
Was shaving a billy goat!
A beetle lay beside me 
And started in to snore.
Oh, I never intend to 
See those pink elephants anymore!