The Name Game

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"The Name Game"
Single by Shirley Ellis
from the album The Name Game
Released1964 (1964)
GenreR&B, novelty
Length2:39 single version 4:39 album cut
Producer(s)Charles Calello

"The Name Game" is an American pop song written and performed by Shirley Ellis[1] as a rhyming game that creates variations on a person's name.[2]


It was written by American singer Shirley Ellis with Lincoln Chase, and Ellis's recording, produced by Charles Calello, was released in late 1964 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 The Merv Griffin Show. The song later became a popular children's singalong.[2]

"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 (1965). 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 recorded "Un jeu d'fou" in French. In 1982, Stacy Lattisaw took her "rap" recording of "Attack of the Name Game" to #70 on the Hot 100. In 1990, Cree Summer Francks (as Elmyra) performed a cover version of the song on an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures using the Tiny Toons' names (except Plucky Duck's, as pointed out in that episode's end credits). In 1993, this song was used in television commercials for Little Caesar's Pizza's kids meals with free toy, performed by The Little Caesars, sequeling the "Wooly Bully" commercials from 1992. Stacy's version was sampled by Mariah Carey on her 1999 single "Heartbreaker", from her album Rainbow. Character Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) sang her version of the song in season 2 episode 10 "The Name Game" of American Horror Story. Sheldon Cooper in Season 9 Episode 21 briefly sings "The Name Game" in The Big Bang Theory.

Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child.[2] On May 3, 2017 Howard Stern stated that he sings this song to young children, and calls it "his secret weapon" saying "it not only comforts them, it also distracts them from [his] unsightly features."[3]


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

Katie, Katie, bo-batie,
Bonana-fanna fo-fatie
Fee fi mo-matie

A verse can be created for any name with stress on the first syllable, 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)
Bonana-fanna 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 "bonana fanna fo-red"; Marsha becomes "fee fi mo-arsha"[2]

The song gives no indication of what to do with names where the stress falls on a syllable after the first, like Renee, Maria, or Lebron.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Name Game". Billboard.
  2. ^ a b c d The Shirley Ellis Name Game Page
  3. ^ "'The Name Game' Is Howard's Secret Weapon With Children". Howard Stern. Retrieved 2017-05-07.