Hokey Cokey

Hokey Cokey is a very popular children’s dance song. It rose to popularity during the 1940s when it was recorded simultaneously in the UK by Jimmy Kennedy (The Hokey Cokey) in 1942 and in the United States by Robert Degan and Joe Brier (The Hokey Pokey Dance).

The song was also recorded by the Ram Trio in 1950 and by Ray Anthony’s orchestra in 1953, a version that charted in the USA.

The origins of the song can be traced back to the 19th century, it was first mentioned in Robert Chamber’s “Popular Rhymes of Scotland” in 1826. That version was very different from the contemporary one:

Fal de ral la, fal de ral la:
Hinkumbooby, round about;
Right hands in, and left hands out,
Hinkumbooby, round about;
Fal de ral la, fal de ral la
In 1872 a version called “Ugly Mug” was published:
I put my right hand in
I put my right hand out
I give my right hand, shake, shake, shake, and turn myself about

The song and dance moves vary between the United States and the United Kingdom. The UK version is slightly more popular wordlwide.

Dance Moves

In the first four verses the body part is moved according to the lyrics. On “You do the Hokey Cokey” each player joins their hands and rocks them side to side. On “And you turn around” players turn around clockwise with the hands still joined together.

During the chorus, during each “Whoa” that lasts three beats, players raise their joined hands and move towards the centre of the circle and on “the hokey cokey” or often “the hokey cokey cokey” they move outwards to their original positions.

On the last two verses, players will bend their knees and raise their arms then on “rah rah rah” they will raise their hands and clap them. In some areas, players will run towards the centre with their hands up.

Is it Hokey Cokey or Hokey Pokey?

Generally in the United Kingdom or Jamaica, the song is called Hokey Cokey and in the USA, Canada and Australia it is called Hokey Pokey. The first modern version of the song from 1942 by Jimmy Kennedy was called “The Cokey Cokey” while the first modern US version from 1944 was called “The Hokey Pokey”.

Why is it Called Hokey Cokey?

There are no certainties regarding the meaning of “Hokey Cokey” but supposedly the name of the song is derived from the magician’s incantation “Hocus Pocus”

“Hokey Cokey” Lyrics

You put your left arm in,
Your left arm out:
In, out, in, out.
You shake it all about.
You do the hokey cokey,
And you turn around.
That’s what it’s all about!


Whoa, the hokey cokey
Whoa, the hokey cokey
Whoa, the hokey cokey
Knees bend, arms stretch,
Rah, rah, rah!

The “left hand” is changed in subsequent stanzas with “right arm”, “left leg”, “right leg”, “whole self” or any other body part including “left hip”, “right hip”, “left elbow”, “right elbow” etc.

USA version

Both the song and the dance instructions differ slightly in the USA. While the first part of the song is similar, the chorus is different:

You do the hokey pokey,
The hokey pokey,
The hokey pokey.
That’s what it’s all about!

On each “pokey”, the players raise their arms with the index fingers pointed up, shaking their arms up and down and their hips side to side.

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