Edited by Azizi Powell
This post presents comments about and text examples of versions of the rhyme "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" that include references to Pop singer/composer Michael Jackson and the name "Billie Jean" or folk etymology forms of the name "Billie Jean". Folk etymology is "a change in the spelling or pronunciation of a word or phrase or the replacement of an unfamiliar word or phrase with a more familiar word phrase or sound. Folk etymology occurs because of mishearing, misremembering, or a mistaken assumption about that word or phrase.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, and recreational purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to Michael Jackson for his musical legacy. Thanks to all those whose examples of this rhyme are included in this post. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.
"Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" (or similar names) is a very large family of playground rhymes that are very widely known in the United States. The rhyme is either played as a (usually two person) hand clap game or as a mildly competitive, group hand slapping game. The hand clapping game is usually played by children while the hand slapping version of this rhyme is often played by adults as well as children.
A number of "Michael Jackson" versions of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" allude to the incident in 1984 when Michael Jackson's hair accidently caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi Cola commercial. However, my sense is that few children who recite those rhymes are aware that those rhymes are based on an actual historical event. Furthermore, most of these "long versions" of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" document the 1980s cola wars between Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola products. Click http://www.businessinsider.com/soda-wars-coca-cola-pepsi-history-infographic-2011-11?op=1 to read about what is known as "the cola wars".
Some "Michael Jackson" versions of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" include a reference to "Billie Jean" or a folk etymology form of that name. Others examples do not. Here's an example of a Michael Jackson version of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" which doesn't include any reference to "Billie Jean":
Down by the river with the hanky bankys
Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky
Skittle dittle curly pop
I pledge allegence to the flag
That Micheal jackson makes me gag
Diet Pepsi came to town
Coca-Cola pushed him down
Orange soda picked him up
Now I'm drinking 7 up
7up caught the flu
Now I'm drinking Moutain Dew
Moutain Dew fell off the moutain
Now I'm drinking from a fountian
Now I'm drinking plain old Coke
-Guest; http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=940347/15/2007 "Origins: Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky", July 15, 2007
Some examples of "Michael Jackson versions" of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" include homophobic language or homophobic references. However, the examples featured in this post don't contain such language.
To date, I've not found any examples of Michael Jackson versions of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" in books of children's playground rhymes. I've also not found examples of these rhymes as YouTube videos. However, examples of Michael Jackson versions of "DBTBHP" rhymes are included in a number of viewer comment sections of YouTube videos of some short versions of that playground rhyme. Besides those YouTube viewer comment threads, to date, I've not found examples of Michael Jackson versions of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" elsewhere on the internet except for pages of my cocojams website*, and on the Mudcat folk forum discussion thread about "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" that I started in 2006.**
In Michael Jackson's record "Billie Jean", the name "Billie Jean" is a female's first name. That name is made up of two female personal names. A personal name that is made up of two independent names is called a "double name". The double name "Billie Jean" is mostly associated with the American South. However, people throughout the United States are much more familiar with the other female double names such as "Mary Ann", "Mary Jane", and "Mary Beth". I believe that a major reason why the name "Billie Jean" is so often "folk etymologized" in "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhymes is that the name "Billy" is considered a male name, even if it is spelled "Billie" and is combined with the female name "Jean". Another reason the name "Billie Jean" is folk etymologized is that the word "jeans" is most often used by Americans as a referent for a style of pants worn by females and males (i.e. "blue jeans" and "levi jeans"). The association of the word "jean" with the clothing attire "jeans" can result in that word being misunderstood, particularly if that rhyme is heard and not read. (Prior to the internet, most examples of playground rhymes that children actually chant other weren't written down.)
As found in some examples below, a relatively common folk etymology version of the name "Billie Jean" is "jelly bean". That folk etymology opened up even more possibilities for this rhyme.
It should be noted that since the death of Michael Jackson in June 2009 some examples of these long forms of DBTBHP no longer refer to Michael Jackson but instead refer to another singer who some fans aren't fond of such as Lady Gaga & Miley Cyrus. Read two examples of those rhymes in the comment section below. Also, some examples of this rhyme that refer to Michael Jackson include "RIP" meaning "Rest In Peace" in parenthesis after that deceased Pop singers's name.
Also, what I refer to as "Michael Jackson" versions of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" [DBTBHP] are examples which include a reference to pop singer Michael Jackson or a reference to another celebrity (such as "Michael Jordan") whose name probably inadvertently substitutes for Michael Jackson. Read an example of one of those rhymes in the comment section below.
** Click these links to find additional examples of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky":
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/05/song-sources-for-down-by-banks-of-hanky.html "Song Sources For Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky"
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/02/down-by-banks-of-hanky-panky-video.html "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" (video & different text examples)
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=94034 "Origin of Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky"
VIDEO OF MICHAEL JACKSON'S SONG "BILLIE JEAN"
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
michaeljacksonVEVO, Uploaded on Oct 2, 2009
Music video by Michael Jackson performing Billie Jean. © 1982 MJJ Productions Inc.
SELECTED RHYME EXAMPLES
These ten examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting dates with the oldest examples given first. The line that includes the name "Billie Jean" or a folk etymology form of "Billie Jean" is given in italics to highlight it and not because that line is emphasized during the chant.
Down by the river near the hankey pank
where the bullfrogs jump from bank, to bank,
and they say E I O U,
your momma stinks and so do you
so ping pong ding dong
your daddy smells like king kong.
Ask your teacher what she wears,
polka dotted underwear.
Not too big and not too small,
just the size of city hall.
Michael Jackson went to town,
coca-cola brought him down.
Coca-cola brought him up,
now he's drinking 7up.
7up with no cafiene, now he's seein' belgain (pronounced beligene).
Belgain is outta sight,
now we're talking dynamite.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BAM!
-Veggie; http://www.cocojams.com/content/handclap-jump-rope-and-elastics-rhymes August 21, 2006
I learned this and forgot most of it (not complete! but it goes sort of like this....
Down by the bay in beverly hills
where the bull frog jumps from bank to banky
and the heeps hops, coffee shops,
we all drink mochas and we wear flip flops
I pledge allegence to the flag
Michal jackson makes me gag
coca cola has cafeine and now we're talking billy jean
billy jean when out of style now lets sit and talk a while
diddy diddy donkey
daddy had a donkey
donkey died, daddy cried
diddy diddy donkey!
theres a party round the corner wont you please please come
bring your own cappuchinos and your own chewing gum
what is your boy friends name?______ (whoever the clap lands on has to come up with a name)
_______ will be there blowing kisses in the air saying I love ______ (who ever came up with the name) saying I love_____ saying O U T spells you are out!
______will be there blowing kissed in the air singin' I... Love...Ma..Ma...Mia, singin' I love ma...ma...mia singin' O U T spells you are out!
-Guest,mooseormeece?, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=94034 [hereafter given as Mudcat: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky, May 21, 2008]
downon by the river side hanky panky
were the bullfrogs jump from bank
saying a-e-i-o-u bamboo
michel jakson came to town
coca cola shot hem down
dr.pepper fixed him
up now were talking 7-up
7-up has no cafene
now were talking bilajean
bilajean has no caffeine
no caffene no caffeine
1234 shut the door enless u ant to here more
-Guest, maeson A., Mudcat: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky, June 27, 2008
Down by the river with the hank to pank
where the bullfrog jumped from bank to bank
saying eeps ipes opes oops
chilly willy ding dong
i pledge allegiance to the flag
michael jackson sings so bad
coca cola roots me up
now we're talkin 7Up
7Up has no caffine
now we're talkin billy gene
billy gene whent outta sight
now we're talkin bobby white
bobby white went out of town
riding on a rocket
stuck a feather in his hat
and called it hershey's chocolate"
-Guest, Deana Ashley :); http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=81350 "I’m Rubber; You’re Glue", August 24, 2008
"out of sight" = a 1960s African American originated vernacular phrase that meant "exceptional". However, in these "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhymes "out of sight" is almost always given its literal meaning of "someone or something that people are unable to see".
Down by the bank by the hanky pank
where the bullfrog jumped from bank to bank
singing eeeps ops ohps ooops
listen to the rythym of the ding dang dong
michael jackson went to town
pepsi cola shot him down
dr. pepper fixed him up
now we're talking 7up
7up has no caffiene
now we're billie jean
billie jean went down the street singing
dooo waaah diddy didy dum diddy dooo
-Guest; Mudcat: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky Rhymes; November 6, 2009
Down by the bank of the hanky panky,
Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky,
To the Hip Hop Shirley Pop,
I pledge allegience to the flag,
of Michael Jackson makes me gag,
Coca-Cola burnt his butt,
Now he's drinking Seven-Up
Seven-Up has no caffeine,
So Now he's drinking Jelly Bean
Jelly Bean is out of sight,
So Now he's drinking Sprite
-Guest, Madison from Metro Detroit, Michigan; Mudcat: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky Rhymes; March 31, 2010
mine goes like:down by the banks of hanky tank
were the bullfrogs jump from bank to bank
saying eeps ipes opes ums
skiddle diddle dong
my brother smells like king kong
pledge allegiance to the flag
micheal jackson is a rat
coca cola blew up
now im drinking 7up
7up has got caffeine
no im drinking billy jean
billy jean is out of sigh
now im drinking sunny light
-MegaGirlzation, http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=O2CSWmfiNKM; 2010
"no" is probably a typo for the word "now".
"out of sigh" is a folk etymology form of the phrase "out of sight".
"your" = "you are"
down by the banks of the hanky panks
fe fi fo fom me say ding dang dong
i pledge allegiance to the flag
Michel Jackson makes me gag
cocola fizes up
now i am talking 7up
7up has no caffeine now
i am talking jelly bean
jellybean is outa sight
now i im talking dynamite
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 boom
and who ever boom land on is out
-Kissyxblythe; http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=iqhvCN0Uvfk, 2011
Down by the banks of the hanky pank,
where the bullfrogs jump from bank 2 bank,
sayin eeps, ipes, opes, oops,
listen to the rhythm of the ding dang dong.
Micheal Jackson went to town,
pepsi cola shot im down
Dr Pepper fixed im up,
now were talkin 7up
7up has no caffine,
now were talkin billy jean.
billy jean was walking down the street singin,
Ooh, I diddy diddy dum diddy doo.
Lincoln, Lincoln I been thinkin.
what on earth have you been drinkin
is it whiskey is it wine
OMG its turpentine 123...9
-MufinCat123, http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=ZC8INeM0w5A, 2011
Down by the banks of the hanky panky.
Oops i said yo booty stanky.
Oooh Ahh Skit Skat,
big fat dirty rat.
I pledge alegence to the flag.
Michael jackson is my dad.
Coca cola burning up,
now its time for 7-up.
7-up had no cafine,
now its time for Billy jean.
Billy jean went out of town riding on a pony,
stuck a feather in his head
and called it macaroni.
-uallnomecuz; http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=ZC8INeM0w5A, January 2012
http://www.cocojams.com/content/down-banks-hanky-panky-rhyme-sources "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" Rhyme Sources"
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