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For All Your "Hokey Pokey" Humor and/or Evil Conspiracy Needs

12/20/2013 Comments (19)

Also, there is this Shakespearean adaptation:

And, of course, what is an innocuous minor cultural phenomenon without a sinister conspiracy lurking behind it?

A spokesman for the leader of the church in Scotland said the song had disturbing origins.
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.
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for Cardinal Keith O’Brien, said:
“This song does have quite disturbing origins. Although apparently innocuous, it was devised as an attack on and a parody of the Catholic mass.
“If there are moves to restore its more malevolent meaning then consideration should perhaps be given to its wider use.”
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.

I'm sorry, but I think Mr. Kearney badly needs Insensitivity Training. I also am highly skeptical of this origin story. Sure "hocus pocus" is a garbling of "hoc est enim corpus meum" and sure "hokey pokey" might be derived from "hocus pocus" somehow (or, then again, maybe not, since it, like "higgledy piggledy", "jiggery pokery", "hotsy totsy", "hanky panky" and dozen of other English colloquialisms come trippingly to the tongue without any sinister anti-popery intent). More than this, I'm having a really hard time buying that that melody dates from the 18th Century, or that this silly song was ever a sinister attack on Catholics. Documentation please?

Even more incredible to me, however, is that--even if we buy this (I think) complete urban legend as fact--any adult would ever worry about it in the present day. What is the matter with Catholics in the UK that they would, for one second, do anything other than laugh heartily at the suggestion that somebody should be jailed on hate crime charges for having Anti-Catholic Thoughts while singing this goofy ditty? If some monobrowed goober from the Ku Klux Klan were to accost me on the street, fix me with his moonshine-reddened eye and start growling "You put your right foot in..." as a way of trying to intimidate me out of my papist ways, I would dissolve in helpless laughter, not think "The Authorities must be alerted to this hate crime!" I think I'd be inclined to buy the guy a drink in gratitude for his sheer entertainment value.

There are a lot of things in this world to worry about. Making the "Hokey Pokey" one of them is the very definition of creating silly problems for ourselves.

Filed under flotsam and jetsam, insensitivity training

About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.