Song of the Day: The Name Game by Shirley Ellis


“The Name Game” is an American pop song written and performed by Shirley Ellis as a rhyming game that creates variations on a person’s name.


The name game. Shirley! Shirley, Shirley.
Bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna.
Fo-fer-ley. fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley!

Lincoln! Lincoln, Lincoln. bo-bin-coln,
Bo-na-na fanna, fo-fin-coln.
Fee fi mo-min-coln, Lincoln!

Come on ev’rybody, I say now let’s play a game.
I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody’s name.
The first letter of the name,
I treat it like it wasn’t there,
But a “B” or an “F” or an “M” will appear;
And then I say “Bo” add a “B” then I say the name.
Then “Bo-na-na fanna” and “fo”
And then I say the name again with an “”f” very plain,
Then “fee fi” and a “mo”
And then I say the name again with an “M” this time.
And there isn’t any name that I can’t rhyme.

Arnold! Arnold, Arnold bo-bar-nold,
Bo-na-na, fanna fo-far-nold,
Fee fi m-mar-mold. Arnold!

But if the first two letters are ever the same,
Crop them both, then say the name.
Like Bob, Bob, drop the “B’s”, Bo-ob.
Or Fred, Fred, drop the “F’s”, Fo-red,
Or Mary, Mary, drop the “M’s”, Mo-ary.
That’s the only rule that is contrary.

And then I say “Bo” add a “B” then I say the name.
Then “Bo-na-na fanna” and “fo”
And then I say the name again with an “”f” very plain,
Then “fee fi” and a “mo”
And then I say the name again with an “M” this time.
And there isn’t any name that I can’t rhyme.

Say Tony, Tony, bo-bo-ney,
Bo-na-na fanna, fo-fo-ney,
Fee fi mo-mo-ney, Tony!

Let’s do Billy!
Billy, Billy, bo-gil-ly, bo-na-na
Fanna, fo-fil-ly,
Fee fi mo-mil-ly, Billy!

Let’s do Marsha!
Marsha, Marsha, bo-bar-sha,
Bo-na-na fanna, fo-far-sha,
Fee fi mo-ar-sha, Marsha!

Little trick with Nick!
Nick, Nick, bo-bick, bo-na-na
Fanna fo fick, fee fi mo-mick. Nick!
The name game.

Using the name Katie as an example, the song follows this pattern:

Katie, Katie, bo-batie,
Banana-fana fo-fatie

A verse can be created for any name, with X as the name and Y as the name without the first consonant sound (if it begins with a consonant), as follows:

(X), (X), bo-b (Y)
Banana-fana fo-f (Y)
Fee-fi-mo–m (Y)

And if the name starts with a b, f, or m, that sound simply is not repeated. For example: Billy becomes “Billy Billy bo-illy“; Fred becomes “banana fana fo-red“; Marsha becomes “fee fi mo-arsha

Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child.

“The Name Game” has been recorded by dozens of recording artists in the years since, notably Laura Branigan, whose version produced by Jeff Lorber, appearing on her 1987 album Touch, features a classroom of third-grade schoolchildren singing along to the tongue-twisting game. Often covered by relative unknowns on collections of songs for children, other cover versions have been recorded by artists as diverse (and campy) as Dean Ford and the Gaylords (1965), Divine (1980), and Soupy Sales (2002). The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and same sample in the song “Jogo da Rima”. In 1965, singer Olivia Molina recorded a Spanish version, “Juego De Palabras”. In 1975, Anne Renée (fr) recorded “Un jeu d’fou” in French. In 1982, Stacy Lattisaw took her “rap” recording of “Attack of the Name Game” to #79 on the Hot 100. In 1993, this song was used on television as an advertisement for Little Caesar’s Pizza. Stacy’s version was sampled by Mariah Carey on her 1998 single “Heartbreaker”, off her album Rainbow.

A Season 2 episode of the TV show American Horror Story was named after this song, which featured a memorable scene where a delusional Jessica Lange performs it in what becomes a big production number.

Shirley Ellis

Birth name Shirley Marie O’Garra
Also known as Shirley Ellis
Born 19 January 1929
Bronx, New York City, NY, US
Died 5 October 2005 (aged 76)
Bronx, New York City, NY, US
Genres Pop, soul
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Voice
Years active 1958–1968
Labels Congress, Kapp, Columbia,Bell
Associated acts The Metronomes

via [wiki][songfacts]

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