The “Jingle Bells” parody that begins, “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells…” seems to have cemented itself in the culture of English-speaking regions of the world, at least for children (and overly immature adults like yours truly). The video below takes a look at the global variation in the subsequent lyrics to the song. I grew up knowing that the next line was, “Robin laid an egg,” but this is not universal, and Tom Scott shows the results of a survey on the geographical differences. He also looks at the impact of the song appearing in an episode of The Simpsons in the mid-90s, and how that changed regional culture for several years before it reverted back to form.

Silly? Yes, but also kind of fascinating. His conclusion? “Children are monsters.” Fair enough. Have a good weekend.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


9 Thoughts on "The Spread of Folklore, the Impact of Mass Media, and What Happens After Batman Smells"

Finally we lay to rest this controversy. Laid an egg. Rural Illinois, 1974.

‘Forest ran away’

(Derby, UK – 1980s and still now – very parochial)

Laid an egg, 1964, Virginia near D.C. (USA). Saw the original broadcast of Robert Goulet singing on the Simpsons (great episode!). Only difference was Goulet sang that the “Joker got away,” and I knew it as the “Joker ran away.”

Laid an egg–batmobile, etc. Mid-1970s, rural Indiana. Two older brothers.

To quote the great General George Washington, “Can I get real for a minute? Tell you how I feel for a minute?”

Jingle bells.
Batman smells.
Robin laid an egg.
Batmobile, lost a wheel,
And Commissioner broke his leg.
–Marin County, California 94949 (1966)

That non-rhyming “Joker” line is lyrically weak.

Also, Bart sings the parody version of “Jingle Bells” in the very first episode of The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”

Jingle bells
Batman smells
Robin flew away
Georgie best
Lost his vest
… and now he cannot play, hey!
– Wales, UK (1969)

I have a variation not mentioned:
Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
Robin laid an egg;
Batmobile lost its wheel
and Joker ran away, hey! (I like this version of Joker the best)
(western Canada, b. 1974)

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