Saturday, 29 December 2007


In case you were thinking of doing the hokey-cokey at the New Year’s Eve knees-up... You may wish to read this article by David Bamber
from Sunday 14 March 1999

THE hokey cokey, the popular dance, has always been seen as an innocent, if raucous, form of entertainment. But an Anglican clergyman has now discovered a more sinister side: it originated as a parody of the Roman Catholic Church's Latin Mass.

Canon George Nairn-Briggs, Provost of Wakefield Cathedral, West Yorkshire, says that both the name of the dance and its actions were originally designed to satirise the traditional Mass and the clergy. The dance involves participants forming a chain and flinging their limbs about in line with commands.

Canon Nairn-Briggs said: "In the days when the priest celebrated the Mass with his back to the people and whispered the Latin words of consecration with many hand movements, the laity mimicked the movements as they saw them and the words as they misheard them." The words "hokey cokey" were a mishearing, or a deliberate parody, of the Latin phrase "Hoc est enim corpus meum", which translates as "This is my body".

Canon Nairn-Briggs also contends that another corruption of the same phrase is "hocus pocus", the words believed to be used by magicians when they were casting spells.

Historical sources appear to back up his theories. The Hokey Cokey became a popular dance in 1940s America and crossed the Atlantic with US soldiers. But its origins are much older and it seems to have gained popularity originally on this side of the Atlantic, before being taken to the US by refugees. An earlier folk dance version was performed in mainland Europe in the 19th century.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that "hokey cokey" comes from "hocus pocus", the traditional magicians' incantation that derives from a Latin phrase used in satanic masses, themselves parodies of the Latin Mass.

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