- The Name Game
"The Name Game," or "The Banana Song", is a children's singalong rhyming game that creates variations on a person's name. It was written by singer Shirley Ellis with Lincoln Chase, and Ellis' recording, produced by Charles Calello, was released in late 1964 (see 1964 in music) as "The Name Game." That record went to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the magazine's R&B charts in 1965. The record was re-released in 1966 and again in 1973. While Ellis' stock in trade was novelty hits, she was not a one-hit wonder. A serious R&B singer for 10 years before that hit, Ellis also charted with "The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap)" (#8 pop and #16 R&B), and "The Nitty Gritty" (#8 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Cash Box R&B chart). Ellis performed "The Name Game" on major television programs of the day, including Hullabaloo, American Bandstand, and Merv Griffin.
"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. The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and same sample in the song "Jogo da Rima". 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). 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.
Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child.
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)
If the name starts with a vowel or vowel sound, the "b" "f" or "m" is inserted in front of the name.
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".)
Playing the game with names such as Alice, Dallas, Tucker, Chuck, Buck, Huck, Bart, Art, Marty, Mitch, Rich, Richie, Maggie, Ruby, or, in British English, Danny or Annie, results in profanity or rude language.
Name Game in popular culture
In Flawless the song is used when Robert De Niro's character is rehabilitating after getting a severe speech impairment following a stroke. The song is sung the 1991 movie My Girl by Vada (Anna Chlumsky) and Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin), as well as in the 1999 drama A Walk on the Moon and the film "Bewitched" (2005). The 1991 film Hudson Hawk, starring Bruce Willis, contains the line "Anna banana fo-fanna" after Sister Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) is captured.
In the movie Radio Flyer, Mike (Elijah Wood) and Bobby (Joseph Mazzello) sing "The Name Game" using the name Buck, and Bobby inadvertently cursing. An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures devoted to spoofing music videos features a tribute to the opening scene of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope wherein Darth Vader captures most of the cast, but they proceed to teach him "The Name Game". That episode's end credits note that Plucky Duck was intentionally excluded from that particular scene, because the name would have resulted in an obscenity. In episode 1F08 of The Simpsons, entitled "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)", Krusty the Clown sings the song, using herpes in place of a name, as part of an adults-only comedy set at Mr. Burns' casino.
In the Good Wilt Hunting episode of the series Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, a scene on a bus fades in with everyone except Frankie and Mac singing "The Name Game" with the name Coco and then Shut Up (begun by Frankie yelling, "Let's try SHUT UP!"). In the episode "Room 7" of The Golden Girls, Rose attempts to lighten up a car trip by singing the song, starting with the name "Dorothy", who immediately slams on the brakes and orders her out of the car.
In The Money Pit, Tom Hanks' character is waiting for a building inspector to arrive when he accidentally gets trapped as the carpet he's standing on sinks through a hole in the floor. Unable to answer the bell, Hanks realizes he will be trapped until his wife (Shelley Long) returns that evening, and passes the time singing "The Name Game" using the names Anna, Brad, and Walter. In the 1995 Stephen King novel Rose Madder, Norman sometimes repeats the song, using the names of various other characters in the book, as his sanity deteriorates.
In an episode of the 1990s sitcom Dinosaurs, the character Charlene tries to play the game with the baby, who has unfortunately received the name Ugh-Ugh-I'm-Dying-You-Idiot Sinclair. The song is sung in the "Road Trip" episode of My Wife and Kids. In an episode of Boy Meets World Cory and Shawn are in a terrible band and end up singing "Name Game" to the crowd; later they play one of Mr. Feeny's tapes, a recording of "Name Game" using the name Feeny. In the 1993 computer game Sam & Max Hit the Road, while at the Dinosaur Tar Pit at Mount Rushmore, the character Sam can be made to sing the song with the names of the presidents depicted on the mountain.
During the Booze Cruise episode of the US-version of the The Office, the character Michael Scott irritates one of his employees, Stanley Hudson, by taunting him with a version of the Name Game based on the name Stanley.
"The Name Game" can also refer to any of several variations on a word game also known in the United States as "States", in Croatia as "Kalodont", in Russia as "Goroda", and in Japan as "Shiritori", in which the players in turn name words in a given category beginning with the final letter of the previous word. For example, a game in which the category was "states of the United States of America" might proceed: Arkansas, South Dakota, Alaska... A game in which the category was "modern musical genres" might proceed: Reggaeton, new age, electronica, alt-rock...
"The Name Game" can also refer to an ongoing game in which one person calls out the name of their victim and then turns away. The victim loses if they look to see who it is. The initiator usually calls out the name in a demanding way, such as "Excuse me, Joe!". Some play that the initiator loses if they are quickly discovered. In a variant, the initiator follows with "sucks!" when the victim looks.
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