Fascinating deep dive into the global variants of "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells"

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/08/12/fascinating-deep-dive-into-the.html


I’m curious where this assertion comes from: “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells is one of the most significant documented viral songs among English-speaking children.” I don’t dispute it but I enjoy studying variants of folk songs and especially children’s songs, so if there is a book or article out there that stipulates which children’s songs are the most significant, the most documented and the most viral, I’d love to read it.

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I was thinking recently about how we had a bunch of these kid-created parodies back when I was in grade school.

I remember singing “Jesus Christ Superstar” as "Jesus Christ, Superstar/ out on the road on my Yamaha/ cops are chasing me, I don’t care/ I’ve got my bullet proof underwear. "

And the Colonel Bogey March (from Bridge on the River Kwai) as “Comet, it makes your teeth turn green/ Comet, it tastes like gasoline/ Comet, it makes you vomit/ so get your Comet, and vomit, today”


The “egg” version annoys me because it doesn’t rhyme; Robin ran/flew away is superior.

Glad to see the “Wonder Woman lost her bosom flying TAA” version I grew up with got a mention, outdated as it is now.


Disagree. Joker is the undisputed arbiter of Batman-mocking rhymes in this city and he went with “Robin Lays an Egg.” In fact it was literally the first thing his character said onscreen in Batman: the Animated Series. Case closed.

Besides, using “Robin flew away” with “Joker got away” isn’t rhyme, it’s just repetition.


Nursery rhymes and similar children’s ‘jingles’ have gone through the same process. One of the most interesting examples is “Pop goes the Weasel” which appears to have started out purely as a dance tune (and a very popular one, at that), that is, without lyrics. The etymology here is a fun read although there’s no clear explanation on exactly who created all the numerous variations of lyrics: Adults? Adults picking up children’s/adolescents’ variations? And the jury is still out on what the title refers to.


Actually, as Dr Seuss proves, any word rhymes with itself.

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Our version was:

Jesus Christ
Came round the corner on a Yamaha
Did a skid
Killed a kid
Caught his balls on a dustbin lid

(Catholic school, too, so the blasphemy made it especially titillating.)


Most Seuss rhymes weren’t that lazy. In “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” it’s the words “two/blue” that form the rhyme while the word “fish” provides the repetition.


And it’s Tom Scott, not Tim.


My wife (who has a ton of these) does one about underwear making your butt turn green, and I was today years old when I realized it was the Col. Bogey tune (which she only knows from the Spaceballs variant).

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Oh man, haven’t thought of that Comet song in forever. Such an obscure ditty my mom taught us…
That and “Gobs and gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts”…

Though it now makes me want to know if the Popeye song starts off as:
I’m Popeye the sailor man
I live in a garbage can…


Is that the one where he eats all the worms and spits out the germs?


These should be of interest:

Nancy McCabe’s Glory, Glory Hallelujah, Teacher Hit Me With a Ruler: Gender and Violence in Subversive Children’s Songs. Studies in Popular Culture (1998)

Folk Rhymes from around the World. Ed. Evelyn Neaman

Doctor Knickerbocker and Other Rhymes: A Canadian Collection. David



Awesome. I’ll check all those out!

I’m more familiar with this version

Britain hadn’t moved on from WW2 in the 80s and 90s. It largely still hasn’t, if I’m honest.


There are actually two official Popeye the Sailor Man theme songs. But you’d have to watch one of the very first of his Fleischer Studios cartoons to hear it. Popeye first appeared onscreen in a Betty Boop cartoon! She was dressed as a Hawaiian girl and did a hula onstage with Popeye.
“Strike up the band,
for Popeye the Sailor,
cash in his hand,
and right off a whaler!
Stand in a row, and don’t let him go—
he’s a cinch but ev’ry inch a sailor!”




Joker for the win!

Love it!

Next can we do (earworm alert) Baby Shark and teach the world that 1) it’s not new and 2) the old melody is the right one?

I hope that in the future there will soon be a way to use Google Forms (or similar) to collect not only the lyrics that people remember, but the melodies. Press the button to record, and sing!

As far as there being more versions of Jingle Bells Playground Version in the UK than in the US, I would bet money that the reason has to do with the near-erasure of outdoor recess from the typical U.S. elementary school day.

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