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(Long Name No Can Say)

This is a story of a little Chinese boy with a VERY long name. It IS politically incorrect, if you care about that sort of thing... but it is a fun and funny story. I first heard this on an old LP, back in the 70's. It didn't turn ME into a raving racist, so I would HOPE that it is safe for YOUR eyes.
There are at LEAST 3 or 4 different versions of this story... and I'm only counting the ENGLISH versions that I am aware of! Some people remember TIKKI Tikki Tembo while others fondly recall RIKKI Tikki Tembo. Most insist that THEIR version is the BEST version... and ALL will gladly CHANT you the main character's full name... the one THEY remember, anyway. But it's NIKKI Nikki Tembo that has my heart. IT is, absolutely THE BEST version... so say I ! ! !

Nikki Nikki Tembo

(Transcibed from the LP, performed by Paul Wing)

Although they have little to do with the story... you can click on the pictures to hear snippets of the LP !

(Intro music, upbeat Chinese instruments)
Hello everybody ! This is Paul Wing, and I've come to tell you the story of "Long-Name-No-Can-Say". Long-Name-No-Can-Say was a little Chinese boy who lived in China a long long time ago. Long-Name-No-Can-Say was not REALLY his name. It was just what some people called him for short. I know "Long-Name-No-Can-Say" sounds pretty long to be called for short, but NOT when you know his REAL name! Because at the time he lived, there was an old Chinese custom for a mother who loved her child VERY much, to name him with the longest name she could think of. And Long-Name-No-Can-Say's mother loved him MORE than very much... she loved him very very VERY much! So she gave him a three-mouthful name! She named him "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi" Of course, if you say that very fast, it doesn't seem so long... "Nikki-Nikki-Tembo-No-So-Rembo-Oo-Ma-Moochi-Gamma-Gamma-Goochi" Now, that's no longer than "George Worthington Witherspoon Saltinstall Hammersmith!!" But, this was in the northern part of China, and they talked very slowly there. Now, even though a Chinese boy's name was very long... none of his friends had a right to call him anything shorter... the way we do when we say "Dick" for "Richard", or "Betty" for "Elizabeth". So no one ever called Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi anything but that! No one except his enemies, that is. Or people who didn't know him at all. And THEY called him "Long-Name-No-Can-Say", because they couldn't remember his REAL name. So, since WE don't know him at all... that's what WE'LL call him, too... Long-Name-No-Can-Say.

Long-Name-No-Can-Say had six sisters, who were older than he was... and a brother, who was YOUNGER than he was. And, his older sister's names were "Humph," "Lumph," "Mumph," "Bumph," "Dumph," and "Gumph" ... and his younger brother's name was just "Yen". You can see from THEIR short names that their mother didn't love them NEARLY so much as she loved Long-Name-No-Can-Say. The reason she didn't love them so much was that when her first daughter, Humph, was born... she wanted it to be a BOY baby. So, when she saw Humph, she was disappointed, and so was her husband. When HE saw Humph, he just said "HUMPH !!!" And that was how Humph got her name. And when Lumph was born, her mother was even MORE disappointed, and so was her husband. He just said "LUMPH !!!" And that was how Lumph got HER name. And it was the same with Mumph, Bumph, and Dumph. And, by the time that Gumph was born, her mother and father were very very very very very VERY disappointed!

Well, then their first SON was born, and they were SO happy that his mother sat up for three whole days and three nights thinking up a name for him. You see, she loved him SO MUCH that she wanted him to have the longest name in the WHOLE VILLAGE... and finally she thought of "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi" And THAT was what she named him! Then, a year later, when his younger brother Yen was born, she loved Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi SO much, that she hardly even noticed his brother Yen at all! And neither did her husband. And they just named him "Yen"

Well... by the time Long-Name-No-Can-Say was seven years old... his mother loved him so VERY much that he was very spoiled and very vain and very FAT! He was very spoiled because whenever any of his sisters had anything HE wanted, or when his brother had anything he wanted... his mother made them give it to him right away. And he was very vain because every time he smiled, his mother would say: "Isn't Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi CUTE?!?" And his father would laugh and make a hissing sound through his teeth like this: "Sss-Sss-Sss-Sss-Sss" And every time Long-Name-No-Can-Say broke one of his sister's dolls or one of his brother's toys... his mother would say: "Isn't Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi FULL OF MISCHIEF?!?" And his father would say "Sss-Sss-Sss-Sss" But if Humph, Lumph, Mumph, Bumph, Dumph, or Gumph broke one of HIS toys... or Yen either... their mother would put them right to bed and say "Aren't they NAUGHTY ?!?" and their father would say "Velly velly bad child-len!" And Long-Name-No-Can-Say's mother kept three musicians in the house ALL the time, to make music everytime anyone spoke his name. Whenever he was spoken to, it sounded like this: [Chinese instruments playing in rhythm as narrator says the name in a bad Chinese accent - this is done from now on] "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi" So naturally, Long-Name-No-Can-Say thought HE must be a PRETTY PERFECT BOY! He would look in his mirror every morning and say "Pletty perfect boy... velly velly handsome, too!!!"

I don't think you'd have liked him !!!

He was very fat, too... because his mother gave him ANYTHING he wanted to eat, anytime he wanted to eat it. At breakfast time, she gave him FOUR breakfasts... and at lunchtime she gave him EIGHT lunches... and at dinnertime she gave him TWELVE DINNERS !! Why, on his seventh birthday, instead of giving him one birthday cake with seven candles... his mother gave him SEVEN birthday cakes with one candle apiece... and he ATE THEM ALL !! And the candles too...

Long-Name-No-Can-Say's mother never thought of feeding his brother Yen at all... or his sisters either... and if they had not been VERY clever children, they certainly would have starved to death. They very NEARLY did as it was when Long-Name-No-Can-Say was very young. But, the OLDER Long-Name-No-Can-Say got, the fatter he got. And the fatter he got, the harder it was for him to see over his own stomach. So, while he sat at breakfast or lunch or dinner... his brother and his sisters would snatch all the food they needed from his plate... and Long-Name-No-Can-Say would never know the difference! As he got fatter and fatter... it got harder and harder for him to walk, too. When he was a little baby, he used to creep around quite fast... like this: [Chinese instruments play mid-tempo rhythm] And when he was two years old, he could toddle like EVERYTHING: [Instruments play uptempo rhythm] But, by the time he was four, he had begun to get SO FAT that his toddle had turned into a WADDLE: [Slow and loping music plays] And when he was SEVEN... his waddle was just halfway between a stagger and a "Galumph" [Very slow and low pitched music]

Well anyway... when Long-Name-No-Can-Say was seven years old, he decided one day that he would take a walk and let all the people in the village see how wonderful he was. So he put on his fanciest new bright blue Manderin coat and his newest red silken slippers. And he greased his pigtail until it was so shiny that it hurt your eyes to look at it. And he started out. [Slow and loping music]

As Long-Name-No-Can-Say passed the neighbor's houses, the neighbors all came out to look at him. Of course, he didn't want them to miss anything... and there was a GREAT deal of him for them to see. So he walked very slowly to give them all a chance to admire everything about him. And as he passed each house, he would try to puff out his chest... but he only succeeded in BULGING out his stomach. And he would try to wave sedately to everyone he saw... but he only succeeded in flapping one of his pudgy hands like a penguin flapping a flipper. Each neighbor, as he passed, said "Glood morning... Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi !" And the three musicicans, who always followed wherever he went, made music everytime anyone spoke his name. Now, the day when Long-Name-No-Can-Say went for his walk, it was a very hot summer day. So, he hadn't gone very far before the perspiration began to run down his face... and when it got to his chins (he was SO fat he had three of them!)... when it got to his chins, the water rolled over them like three waterfalls and splashed down on his bright blue Manderin coat until IT was dripping wet too. And he left a STREAM of water behind him. He was a VERY funny sight to see ! The neighbors really WANTED to laugh when they saw them, but they LIKED his mother and father, so they PRETENDED to think Long-Name-No-Can-Say was VERY handsome. And, one after another, they said: "Glood MORNING, Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi !" As soon as he had passed by them, one neighbor would turn to another and laugh... and the other neighbor would say: "Fat boy velly velly funny! Cheen [chin] all wet all the same rike dlowned lat! [like drowned rat] !!" But Long-Name-No-Can-Say didn't hear them. So he strutted more proudly than ever and BULGED out his stomach until he looked like a powdered pidgeon, pouting in the wrong place. When he got to the edge of the village, he was SO hot and SO wet and SO thirsty that he just HAD to have a drink of water. So he waddled over to the village well. [Slow, loping music]

The village well stood at the foot of Ling Pi Litchi Mountain, which towered over the little houses of the villagers. Now, this was a VERY fine well... and a very DEEP one, with very cold water that was simply WONDERFUL to drink. And the well had sloping sides, so it got narrower and narrower as it went down into the earth. As Long-Name-No-Can-Say lowered the bucket into the well, he looked down and saw his face reflected in the still water FAR below the ground. His reflection was just as fat as his face... but HE thought that it looked WONDERFUL... and he spoke to it. He said: "Velly velly pretty fellow, Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi !!!" Of course, the three musicians played as he spoke his name. And as his lips moved, the fat lips of his reflection moved too... and the echo in the well made it seem to talk back to him. [Played and spoken as an echo] "Velly velly pretty fellow, Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi !!!"

He was quite PLEASED with himself... but his face looked so NICE to him down in the well that he leaned over the rim to see his whole head and shoulders. THEN he was so pleased that he leaned still farther to see down to his waist... or to the place where his waist WOULD have been if he hadn't been so FAT. Then he leaned still STILL farther to see even MORE of himself and his wonderful bright blue Manderin coat. And then... WHOOPS!!! [High pitched descending noises... ending with a splashing PLOP!] He fell STRAIGHT DOWN into the well. When felt himself falling head first, he was SURE he would be drowned! But, the top of the well was wide, so as he fell, he turned over and over. And then, as the walls of the well got narrower and narrower, he stopped turning over... and finally came to rest feet downward near the bottom... as his fat body was squeezed by the four walls of the well. His feet were danging down into the water... and it felt COLD AS ICE... and it was very DARK way down there ! Well, Long-Name-No-Can-Say was SO cold and SO scared that he began to shiver all over. And his chins and his fat stomach began to quiver like a dish of gelatin dessert. And the more he shivered and quivered, the tighter he was wedged between the walls of the deep dark well. Up at the top, the three musicians were leaning over the rim of the well, just to be there in case anyone spoke his name. When they saw what had happened, they became so excited they sounded like this: [Rapidfire and high pitched music] Poor Long-Name-No-Can-Say shouted up to them "HELP, HELP ! Stop noise and HELP!! Come velly quick! Chop chop!" So the musicians stopped and one of them said: "What can do please, exaulted sir?" And Long-Name-No-Can-Say said: "Get me out of well... chop chop !" He meant 'do it quickly.' But the musician said: "No can do, please. Can play music, but no can get exaulted body out of well!" So Long-Name-No-Can-Say yelled up to the musicians and told them to CALL someone to help them. The head musician looked all around, and a little way off he saw two Chinese farmers tending their rice fields. He went to get them. They were so close by that it OUGHT to have taken him only a few moments to bring them to the well, but the farmers would not come with the musician until he told them WHO had fallen down the well. Well, he tried to tell them. He said: "Young Master Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi. HE is body down well, please! You come quick, yes?" But the farmers couldn't understand that LONG name, and they wouldn't come until they DID understand it! One farmer said: "Come again, please? What is name?" And the head musician told him the name all over again. It took QUITE a time to do it, and all the while this was going on... poor Long-Name-No-Can-Say was wriggling and struggling to get himself out of the well. The more he struggled, the more he perspired. The more he perspired, the SLIPPERIER he got. And the SLIPPERIER he got, the farther down into the well he slipped, and the more tightly he became wedged between it's narrowing walls. So everytime the head musician took time to pronounce his very long name... poor Long-Name-No-Can-Say slid an inch farther down into the well. And everytime he wriggled and struggled trying to FREE himself, he perspired another quart of water. So, as HE kept getting lower and lower... the water kept getting higher and higher!

At last, when the water was almost up to his shoulders, the head musician came back. He called down the well: "Farmers no savvy who down well!" He meant he couldn't make the farmers understand who was down the well. "Him no savvy... him no come!", said the head musician. Since the farmers couldn't understand the NAME of the person down the well, they wouldn't come to help. "What shall do now, please?", the head musician asked. And, Long-Name-No-Can-Say said "Go to village, all three of you... get many peoples to come, chop chop." And as the three musicians trotted off toward the village [upbeat music] the fat boy struggled again, and another quart of perspiration trickled off him down into the well. [Staccato, rhythmic music]

The three musicians trotted off to the first person they saw in the village. It was the village shoemaker. They told him the boy was in the well and asked him to come and get him out. But the shoemaker only said, "Who in well? What is name, please?" So the head musician said, "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi in well, please!" And everytime the long name was repeated, back in the well, poor Long-Name-No-Can-Say was struggling and perspiring and getting stuck harder than ever. And the water was getting higher and higher in the well! The shoemaker listened attentively as the head musician pronounced the name, and he said "This most unfortunate, please. Me... no can help. Can make shoes, but no can help get out of well Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi."

Just then, the village baker came along and asked what the trouble was. So, the head musician told him. It took a lot MORE time to make the village BAKER understand! Then, he said, "This very bad misfortune, please. Me, no can help! Can make velly nice rice cakes, but no can get out of well Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi. Velly solly, please!" And it was just the same with the village candlemaker and the village tailor and the village butcher and the village carpenter and the village ropemaker and the village water-carrier. And, of course, the head musician had to repeat that long LONG name to EACH of them so each would understand WHO was in the well. And each of THEM had to repeat it AFTER the head musician so HE would understand who it was that they couldn't help get out of the well!

The three musicians were getting terribly WORRIED! THEY were afraid that Long-Name-No-Can-Say would drown, and then THEY would lose their jobs of making music everytime anyone said "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi." They were getting most AWFULLY worried, when along came the sisters of Long-Name-No-Can-Say; Humph, Lumph, Mumph, Bumph, Dumph, and Gumph... and his slim brother, Yen. The head musician told them all about the accident, and how NO ONE could help their fat brother. And Humph, the eldest sister said, "This is much exaulted NONSENSE !! ALL can help !!" And she told the village water-carrier to go to the well and draw water OUT of it with his bucket... so the water couldn't get and DEEPER and drown her brother.. if he wasn't drowned already. She told the village candlemaker to take many lighted candles to the well and place them around the rim... so it wouldn't be dark down below where her fat brother was. She told the ropemaker to fetch his LONGEST, STRONGEST rope to the well. And everybody else, she said, could come along and PULL. So they all trotted off to the well. [upbeat music]

And when they GOT there, the village ropemaker tied one end of his longest, strongest rope to a tree... and the other end he dropped down the well. And the slim brother Yen slid down the rope [descending notes]... and struck Long-Name-No-Can-Say with a BUMP. And Long-Name-No-Can-Say said, "OUCH, please!" So they knew he hadn't yet drown. And Yen, the slim brother, bounced three times on his fat brother's head. [music: clink, clank, CLUNK!] And if you ask me, I don't believe he even TRIED to stop bouncing... I think he ENJOYED IT !!!

But anyway, Yen tied the ropemaker's rope under his fat brother's arms. And then Yen climbed nimbly up the rope and out of the well. [ascending notes] And everybody at the top of the well began to PULL.

Well, they PULLED. And they TUGGED. They strained and they grunted: "MMMMPHHH, PLEASE !" But Long-Name-No-Can-Say stayed right where he was. With ALL their pulling and tugging and straining and grunting, they couldn't budge him an inch. He was SO fat, and so tightly wedged in the well that he just wouldn't move. And he called up to them, "Ouch, please. This not doing something! This only hurting when pulling!" Of course, they didn't want to HURT him... so they all stopped pulling. And Humph, the eldest sister said that there was only one thing to do. And the others all looked at her and said "What IS, thank you, please?" And Humph said that Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi would just have to go on a diet so he would get SLIM enough to climb out of the well by himself.

So the village baker baked him just ONE rice-cake a day for 87 days... and everybody else went back to his work in the village. And every day, Long-Name-No-Can-Say got a little bit slimmer. And while this was going on, his mother (who loved him very very VERY much.... even if WAS at the bottom of the village well) came to see him everyday. And everyday, she dropped her tape-measure down the well to him... and he'd measure himself for a new Manderin coat. And everyday she MADE him a new Manderin coat...each one a little smaller than the one she had made him the day before... and each one a little more brightly colored... so he would be SURE to have a Manderin coat that would FIT him when he got out of the well. And, all the time she was sewing, she was THINKING. And everytime she thought his name, the three musicians would play it. And THIS is what she thought... "IF Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi hadn't had such a long name, it wouldn't have taken the head musician so long to explain it to the farmers and the shoemaker and the baker and the candlemaker and the tailor and the butcher and the carpenter and the rope-maker. It wouldn't have taken so long to explain WHO was in the well. And, if it hadn't taken so long to explain who was in the well... Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi wouldn't have gotten himself wedged in so TIGHTLY!!" All this she was thinking as she made the 87 bright new Manderin coats. And on the 87th day... her FAT son... who was now as slim as his slender brother Yen... climbed up the rope, out of the well... ALL BY HIMSELF [ascending notes] JUST as his mother was finishing the last, smallest, BRIGHTEST Manderin coat of all. It had ALL of the 86 colors of the 86 Manderin coats she had made before it... and one NEW color, all its own. And, as her son jumped from the rim of the well to the ground [plunk]... she put the wonderful Manderin coat on him. And he looked "pletty fine," she thought. And she thought this: "If a mother loves her son very very VERY much... she shouldn't give him a long name like "Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Lembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi" ...which is SURE to get him stuck in a well because it takes so long to say it. INSTEAD, she should give him a very SHORT name... like "Nikki"... that you can say very quickly. And, ever after... everybody called him Nikki. And THAT is why Chinese boys today have such pretty SHORT names like Lee and Wu and Po, and the other names you see on Chinese laundries. And THAT is the story of Nikki Nikki Tembo No-So Rembo Oo-Ma Moochi Gamma Gamma Goochi !!! [happy, upbeat exit music]

From what I gather... this story has been retold MANY times, by many different people. I believe it to be a folk tale that MAY have it's roots in a "Rakugo" ,which is a traditional Japanese story, told by a professional, to make people laugh. It is not meant to be taken seriously, or as historical fact. I see it as being akin to Kipling's "Just So" stories like "How the Leopard Got His Spots" or "How the Elephant Got His Trunk."
There IS an American version with a boy named
"Eddie Cootcha Catcha Camma Toastinary Toastinoca Samma Camma Whacky Brown."
It's nowhere near as funny or interesting... but you can read it here

AND... Last, but not least...


Fans of the different versions have gathered (mostly in thrilled disbelief that anyone else has even HEARD of this story) to post messages. Read all the memories and debates here:

There is a FREE mp3 download of this version at:
The Nikki Tikki Tembo Web Page

You can read what Wikipedia has to say:

Just found... You can listen to this version free online here