Shirley Ellis: The Name Game


This silly but catchy song was written by American singer Shirley Ellis with Lincoln Chase. (It can’t have been hard to write as there are only a couple of notes in it.) It was released in late 1964 and went to No 3 in the US. I am not sure if it was released in Britain but if it was it did nothing. I think it must have been released here because I still get the annoying words on the brain occasionally.

If you are interested, Wikipedia explains how the game works.

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“.

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.


One Reply to “Shirley Ellis: The Name Game”

  1. Great! I’ve always thought that language is like algebra.

    I bought a Shirley Ellis best of CD recently after hearing one of her songs on the excellent Tony Blackburn “Sounds Of The Sixties” show. (Saturday mornings, 6-8 am.)

    The song was called “Ever See A Diver Kiss His Wife While the Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water”.

    I only know one song with a longer title than that; it’s by Fairport Convention and I’m not going to type it all out…

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