Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Problem With “The Name Game”

Maybe you also watch American Horror Story, the TV show that asks the question “What the fuck?” and then, in lieu of an answer, simply diverts the viewer in the direction of a different “What the fuck?” moment. And perhaps you watched the most recent episode, in which creator Ryan Murphy drew on his other horror series, Glee, by having Jessica Lange’s character perform the 1964 song “The Name Game,” along with a choreographed dance by the insane asylum residents.

No, I’m not kidding. This really was something that happened on a TV show where, in addition, aliens impregnate dead ladies, Anne Frank is a kickass Nazi fighter, the farmer from Babe turned Chloe Sevigny into a pulsating STD monster and, most incredibly all, Zachary Quinto put a baby inside Sarah Paulson. In the context of the episode, the song wasn’t wholly out of place, for it tied in nicely with two plot points: Lange’s character getting electroshocked to the point that she didn’t know her name and a priest invoking the name of Christ to force the devil out of a possessed person.

Watch it if you need to, or if you haven’t realized what “Name Game” song I’m talking about.

Yeah, it’s the “banana-fana-fo-fana” song. And it’s been in my head ever since I watched the episode, which means I’ve been forced to think about “The Name Game,” which I don’t think is fair.

My conclusion: It’s kind of a shitty game.

Okay, so in the lyrics, the singer — in the original version, Shirley Ellis, who also co-wrote the song — brags, “I bet you I can make a rhyme / Out of anybody’s name” and “There isn’t any name that I can’t rhyme.” Now, if you’re going to do that and act like it’s both clever and fun, you kind of have to try harder than just inventing new words and being all, “Bam! Rhymed that one! I’m on fire. Look at me go!” You kind of have to wonder if Ellis understands why rhyming poetry is hard and why poets, when they’re hung up on a hard-to-rhyme word, don’t just stick banna-fana it and say bobsequious, feffulgent and mee-mi-mo-momphaloskepsis. You kind of have to wonder if Ellis, if presented with the whole “nothing rhymes with orange” problem, wouldn’t just shout “Borange! Forange! Morange!” and then swivel dance out of the room.

Beyond all that cheating, the song really sucks for long names. Basically, the more multisyllabic the name, the harder it is to use in “The Name Game.” No one plays “The Name Game” with an Iphigenia. If they do, they call her “Iffy,” which is the right sort of nickname for the weirdo stuck with that name. That the less said of Chuck, Tucker and Mitch, the better.

I will say this in favor of the “The Name Game,” however. In the American Horror Story version, one person really got a kick out of her name being used, and that was Pepper the Pinhead.

Then again, she is a pinhead.

In closing, is it weird to think that people liked this song the same year that the world discovered The Beatles?

It’s Funny Because It’s Old, previously:
Also there was the other time I had a problem with American Horror Story.

EDIT: Guys, I totally underestimated the number of names that do not work politely with this song. From the Wikipedia page, overlong and needlessly detailed, per usual:

I would like to shake the hand of the person who tried to banana-fana a brand of harmonicas, I really would.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:10 AM

    Sure, it might not work in all cases, and it "may" have irritated you. But even so it's been around 50 years since the song was made and you are thinking about it so much and even made a post about it today. Whitch must mean that they succeeded.
    love your tone and active detest, keep on doing what you do!