[Ads-l] Participation Dance - the "Cokey Cokey" (February 1942), later "Hokey Pokey" (US and Australia) the "Hokey Cokey" (Britain)

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 9 21:36:09 UTC 2022

The wedding dance known in the US as the “Hokey Pokey” has been known primarily as the “Hokey Cokey” in Britain since the dance and song, by that name, were introduced in 1942.  There are apparently frequent arguments about which is “right” when people find out a different term is used in a different place.  In only just learned about the difference in the last week or two while researching earlier uses of “Hokey Pokey.”

The instructions to put one’s hands, legs, and other things in and then out are at least a century older, but not by that name, and without “that’s what it’s all about.”   But the song and dance by those names, and with “that’s what it’s all about,” date to 1942.  But neither one of those names are the original name.

In the copyright filing for the song in February 1942, the song was called the “Cokey Cokey.”

“Cokey cokey; w & m Jimmy Kennedy. © Feb. 6, 1942; E for. 66528: Kennedy music co., ltd., London. 10200.”

United States Copyright Office, Catalog of Copyright Entries (pt. III, n.s., v. 37), 1942.

Presumably, the change was influenced by familiarity with “Hokey Pokey,” then known most as a frozen ice cream-like treat sold by street vendors.  I guess “Hokey Cokey” was adopted in England where they were closer to the original “Cokey Cokey,” and “Hokey Pokey” in the US for some reason.

“Hokey Pokey” appeared in print in Scotland and England by September and October of that year.
“Hokey Cokey” appeared in England by late-October 1942.

When introduced in the United States in the spring of 1943, it was only referred to as the “Hokey Pokey,” and remained so as it spread through USO shows dances and shows across the country.

Interestingly, and perhaps unrelated (but you never know) “Cokey” at that time was slang for a cocaine addict.  Is that why the words were used for a song with a lot of action, shaking and moving around?

I posted an article about it on my blog today.

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