Printable Version
Pronunciation: ho-kee-po-kee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Deception, cheatery, trickery, hocus-pocus. 2. A nonsense word used in the name of a children's song and dance, in which people move various body parts in accord with the song. 3. A cheap ice cream sold by vendors (chiefly in Philadelphia).

Notes: Like all rhyming compounds today's Good Word is a lexical orphan. Just remember to spell it with Es before the Ys, not hoky-poky.

In Play: I suppose the first meaning of today's Good Word, "trickery" or "hocus-pocus", is most popular today: "What sort of hokey-pokey is Ray Scane up to this time?" Back in the 50s, it was the dance that was the rage: "Ray threw his back out of joint doing the hokey-pokey last weekend. I don't think he is able to get into any mischief today." The third meaning was all the rage among the kids of Philadelphia in the 1880s: "Look, you guys! Here comes the hokey-pokey man."

Word History: The origins of the first meaning of today's Good Word are widely known. It comes from a reduction of hocus-pocus. The second meaning above is probably an adaptation of of the same word, influenced by hanky-panky. Many long years ago shaved-ice vendors used to ply their trade along the streets of Philadelphia. Most of these vendors were Italian. When they completed a transaction, they would say, Ecco un poco "Here is a little". Ecco un poco became hokey-pokey in the mouths of the babes, the primary consumers of this hand-held ice, who passed it on to their elders.

Dr. Goodword,

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