Everyday Semiotics

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What IS it all about?

Who knew? The Hokey Pokey, before it became a preschool sensation, was a coded invective against Catholicism.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Critics claim that Puritans composed the song in the 18th century in an attempt to mock the actions and language of priests leading the Latin mass.

Now politicians have urged police to arrest anyone using the song to "taunt" Catholics under legislation designed to prevent incitement to religious hatred.


According to the church, the song's title derives from the words "hocus pocus".

The phrase is said to be a Puritan parody of the Latin "hoc est enim corpus meum" or "this is my body" used by Catholic priests to accompany the transubstantiation during mass.

Several years ago, a canon from Wakefield Cathedral said the dance came from the days when priests celebrated mass with their backs to the congregation and whispered the Latin words of consecration with many hand movements.

Fascinating stuff. One question, though: How did the dance become known as the hokey-cokey in Britain while in America as the hokey-pokey it confroms more closely to its alleged hocus-pocus seme?

The Oxford English Dictionary buys the "hocus pocus" origin but discredits the "hoc est enim corpus meum" theory. Wikipedia gives top billing the Al Tabor theory, which has nothing to do with hocus pocus or the eucarist but an New Zealand ice cream variety consisting of vanilla with tofee.

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