Hokey Pokey co-author dies.
December 4, 2009 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Yeah, but did you hear about what happened at his funeral? They were placing the body into the casket, and they went to put his right leg in... and that's when all the trouble started.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

So that's what it was all about.

posted by jonp72 at 6:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

The poor man is probably turning himself about in his grave at all these horrible jokes.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:18 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

In addition to his son William, who lives in Lexington, he is survived by his wife of 74 years, Vivian,

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:25 AM on December 4, 2009

posted by leetheflea at 6:26 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

You know, to write something that enduring, you've just got to put your whole self in...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hokey Pokey is like Happy Birthday, it's one of those songs that you don't think anyone actually wrote. It just sort of appeared. I guess I was wrong.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:29 AM on December 4, 2009

Very disturbing fact that few people have reason to ever discover:

In England, the song is called the Hokey Cokey.

I know. <Shudders>
posted by cotterpin at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2009

The obit is really interesting. There's a lot of disagreement about the song's origins, and there are even some who say that the song is anti-Catholic and the singing of it should be considered a hate crime.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2009

I had always thought the song was "Hokey Cokey", which, as the article says was a popular song around the time of WW2 in the UK. I remember my grandparents singing it.

I first heard of Hokey Pokey as a flavour of ice cream in New Zealand: sponge toffee (aka honeycomb) in vanilla. In fact, (from Wikipedia): "Hokey pokey" was a slang term for ice cream in general in the 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries in several areas — including New York and parts of Great Britain — specifically for the ice cream sold by street vendors, or "hokey-pokey" men. The vendors, said to be mostly of Italian descent, supposedly used a sales pitch or song involving the phrase "hokey pokey", for which several origins have been suggested, although no certain etymology is known.
posted by jonesor at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2009

From the piece:

However, neither version may be the original. A similar song, called variously “Hokey Cokey” or “Cokey Cokey,” was reportedly a favorite of English and American soldiers in England during World War II, the authorship attributed sometimes to a popular Northern Irish songwriter, Jimmy Kennedy, and sometimes to a London bandleader, Al Tabor.

Yeah, not to speak ill of the dead, but this Hokey "Pokey" business is a recent twist on something older, and from the British Isles.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:37 AM on December 4, 2009

Bill Bailey's Das Hokey Cokey.
posted by Electric Dragon at 6:41 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:42 AM on December 4, 2009

His family asks that you donate your jokes to charity as they have already heard them.
posted by unsupervised at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [13 favorites]

Had me worried for a minute there.
posted by marxchivist at 6:49 AM on December 4, 2009

I was going to post this yesterday but after doing a bit more research and learning that he probably wasn't the original author, I decided against it.

I didn't want a repeat of my last poorly researched obit filter.
posted by chillmost at 6:49 AM on December 4, 2009

Burial to take place this Saturday at 10 AM. Then Sunday at 9, Monday at 11, Tuesday at 7...
posted by PlusDistance at 6:51 AM on December 4, 2009

My heart is all achey breaky. (I'm sorry, but I confuse those two songs.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:57 AM on December 4, 2009

Some Roman Catholic churchmen, meanwhile, have said that the words “hokey pokey” derive from “hocus pocus” — the Oxford English Dictionary concurs — and that the song was written by 18th-century Puritans to mock the language of the Latin Mass.

In case you didn't quite follow that: some people speculate that "hocus pocus" is a garbled version of "hoc enim est corpus meum" ("this is my body") said in the Latin Mass. That's not certain, although it is easy to imagine some youngster who don't know Latin pretending to do some secret ritual incantations and reciting something that sounds kind of like what they hear the priest say. If the chain really does run from the Mass to "hocus pocus" to the Hokey Pokey, that's quite an interesting chain of developments.

I'd be surprised if that's the case, though.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:57 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a lapsed Catholic, I have to say that the idea that the Hokey Pokey is anti-Catholic is utter rubbish, simply because doing the Hokey Pokey as part of Mass would be totally awesome.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:01 AM on December 4, 2009

a Hand in the Hokey Pokey

I can think of a whole nother meaning for this phrase that has nothing to do with Catholics, the Latin mass, sponge toffee, World War II, or the British Isles (though I suppose it might help with the wife of 74 years...)


posted by chavenet at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2009


You put your left skate in....
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:10 AM on December 4, 2009

This was the theme song of our wedding reception.

posted by mikelieman at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2009

Yes, that obit is an interesting little capsule history of the song. And Degen lived to 104! Fantastic! Thanks for the post, LSK.

the words “hokey pokey” derive from “hocus pocus”

And the words “hokey pokey folkie” derive from “hocus pocus by focus
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2009

Stephen Colbert's comment on this was "this funeral is going to take FOREVER!"
posted by hippybear at 7:13 AM on December 4, 2009

Another Hokey Pokey (whose author is very much alive, fortunately)
posted by TedW at 7:17 AM on December 4, 2009

My sympathies go out to the family, friends, and anyone who had to write a straight-faced obituary.
posted by MrVisible at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by jquinby at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2009

This was the theme song of our wedding reception.


posted by jeremy b at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2009

Big man who knows all the moves (knees bent, they always miss the knees bent) leads in the Horror Cokey.
posted by tellurian at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2009

Actually, on watching that clip again and again, when the caller says "You Do The Hokey Cokey" the big guy clasps his hands in front of him and wiggles them backwards and forwards, everybody else ignores the instruction. But that's just his interpretation of doing the 'Hokey Cokey' isn't it… there is no hokey c/pokey as a single movement. So whatever you do when the caller says 'Do the Hokey whatever' is correct. Yes? (i'm not talking about the big hands- joined Hokey C/Pokey, but the one in verse).
posted by tellurian at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2009

104, that's a good innings.
posted by tellurian at 7:57 AM on December 4, 2009

The tune is so quintessentially British he should've got a telegram from the Queen for getting the century.
I've never received or sent a telegram.
So, that's pretty special, eh?
posted by tellurian at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2009

Meanwhile the composer of the Bunny Hop, bandleader Ray Anthony, is still around (he released the Hokey Pokey on the B side of his Bunny Hop single in America.)

And I am certain many of the Balboa High School students who came up with the hoppin' dance steps are still with us as well.
posted by Spatch at 8:46 AM on December 4, 2009

Note that he was a CO-author. His contribution was taking things out. The woman who suggested shaking things all about died in 1977.
posted by Legomancer at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2009

Whew. I thought the guy who wrote Hocus Pocus had died...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:46 AM on December 4, 2009

Wait, wait, so the Hokey-Pokey is out for Catholics, but Tupac Shakur is in?
posted by Muddler at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2009

I'm one of those weird people who cannot tell their left from right. I dreaded the Hokey Pokey as a child because half the damn time I was facing the wrong way and shaking the wrong limb. I'd try to wait a second to see which way everybody else was doing it, but that didn't make me look any smoother, since by the time I'd gotten the appropriate limb IN, everybody else had moved on to the OUT phase. And those cheerful kindergarten teachers, all smiles, like this is some kind of fun game, and not a baffling and clearly pointless ritual humiliation.

But I don't suppose you ever meant to make a fool out of childhood me, Robert Degen. 104, married for 74 years, not half bad. Rest in peace.
posted by bookish at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2009

I like the British origin story. I want to hear a song with these lyrics:

Hokey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick make you jump.

I think I shall write one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:22 PM on December 4, 2009

Only one hundred years until the Hokey Pokey becomes public domain!
posted by mightygodking at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

So ... AC/DC going to continue to co-opt the tune for all of their songs?
(I like AC/DC, but every one of their songs you can sing the Hokey Pokey to)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:57 PM on December 4, 2009

posted by Smart Dalek at 4:40 PM on December 4, 2009


Take it away The Snowmen...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:45 AM on December 5, 2009

Put your third eye out
posted by hortense at 5:12 PM on December 5, 2009

http://www.thehokeycokeyman.com/ for the truth
posted by A189Nut at 4:43 AM on December 6, 2009

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