"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 no 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 timeless tongue-twisting game. The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and same sample in the song "Jogo da Rima", which hit the #1 position on the Brazilian singles charts in 1994. 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 recording of "Attack of the Name Game" to #79 on the Hot 100.
Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child. Children can often be seen chanting this rhyme:
Using the name Jack as an example, the song follows this pattern:
- Jack, Jack, bo-back,
- Banana-fana fo-fack
A verse can be created for any name, with X as the name and (X−1) as the name without the first consonant sound, as follows:
- (X), (X), bo-b(X−1)
- Banana-fana fo-f(X−1)
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, Tucker, Chuck, Buck, Huck, Bart, Art, Mitch, Rich or Richie results in profanity.
Name Game in popular culture
- Two episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures have been entirely devoted to spoofing music videos, including one featuring "The Name Game". A tribute to the opening scene of Star Wars Episode IV, 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 music video, because the name would have resulted in an obscenity.
- In the Good Wilt Hunting episode of the series Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, the traffic scene fades in with everyone on the bus except Frankie and Mac singing "The Name Game" with the names Coco, Shut Up (this was begun by Frankie yelling, "Let's try SHUT UP!"), and Frankie. Later on the plane, Frankie can be heard singing softly in her sleep, "Frankie, Frankie, bo-bankie."
- In Flawless the song is used when Robert De Niro's character is rehabilitating after getting a severe speech impairment following a stroke.
- 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.
- The song is sung in the 1999 drama A Walk on the Moon.
- 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.
- In the 4-part comic miniseries Lobo's Back, the DC Comics character Lobo, known for his profanity, is shown in heaven singing "The Name Game" using the name of Jesus, while playing an electric harp with a saw
- 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.
- The 1991 film Hudson Hawk, starring Bruce Willis, contains the line "Anna banana fo-fanna" after Sister Anna Baragli (Andie MacDowell) is captured.
- 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 strip 368 of the web comic xkcd, Bass, the song is broadcast (apparently intended as a nuisance) in retaliation to loud bass coming from a nearby car.
- In the 1991 movie "My Girl" Vada (Anna Chlumsky) and Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin) sing "The Name Game" using the name Vada.
"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
", in Russia
as "Goroda", and in Japan
", 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.