• hokey-pokey •
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 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, the meaning of today's Good Word is a bit mushy. It is actually two words, from two quite different sources (see Word History).
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 do any mischief." Going further back, the third meaning was all the rage among the kids of Philadelphia: "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-pokus. The second meaning above is probably an adaptation of hanky-panky. But few know the origins of the third meaning. (Indeed, few know that meaning today.) 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, who passed the word on to hand-held ice cream sold by street vendors and good humor men from 1884 onward.
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