Hokypoky hocus pocus

U 5.357-62: ... waiting for it to melt in their stomachs. [...] Look at them. Now I bet it makes them feel happy. Lollipop. It does. Yes, bread of angels it's called. There's a big idea behind it, kind of kingdom of God is within you feel. First communicants. Hokypoky penny a lump.

Bloom’s reference to hokey-pokey has been associated with the earlier popular theatrical/pantomime character of that name (doubtless derived from hocus pocus) and to charlatanism in general. And this all ties in with Bloom’s view of Holy Communion. In addition, Gifford alludes to street cry (he calls it a line from a nursery rhyme) ‘Hokeypokey / Penny a lump’, but is obviously confusing this with a much older comic song, whose rhymes became immensely popular:

Sadler’s Wells. The well-known comic song "Hokey Pokey Whankey Fong", has given a name and a story to the pantomime here.

Lady's Magazine (1836), January p. 69

But there is a much simpler explanation of ‘hokey-pokey’.1 By the time Ulysses was published, the shortlived craze of the 1870s and 80s for ‘hokey-pokey’ (inferior ice-cream) was hardly more than a distant memory for most Dubliners:

Time flies and Dublin can no longer be looked at by the nose. A main drainage system has exorcised the Liffey, and the red-herring basket is as scarce as that of the cockle seller of old, a legend now, or the more distant hokey-pokey-a-penny-a-lump man, who is not even believed in by children.

Times (London, England) (1919) 4 November

Forty years earlier hokey-pokey was all the rage.

Hokey-pokey was the vulgar name for 'ice-cream sold on street,' she explained, and she had tasted some at an open-air hokey-pokey stall near the Liverpool 'depot' for one penny ...

Tinsley's magazine (1881) vol. 29, p. 490

As 'hokypoky' is a form of ice-cream, it is no coincidence that Bloom’s train of thought runs from “waiting for it to melt in their stomachs”, through “Lollipop”, to "Hokypoky".

A report in the Manchester Times of 3 December, 1881, tells us of the ingredients of this dubious product:

The genuine article is said to be composed of milk, cornflour, sugar, and eggs, all boiled together, and afterwards frozen into small lumps.

This section was headed “Police News”, as there were a significant number of cases where the unhygenic product caused illness or even death.

Hokey-pokey was a great favourite with children - seen here licking it out of small glasses:

Sometimes the hokey-pokey men would put the ice-cream lump on a piece of brown (tissue) paper, often folded into the shape of a cone. Wafers (as mentioned in the Circe episode) only became popular at the turn of the century.

An ingenious folk etymology that derived the word from the Italian o che poco (‘oh how little)’, supposedly expressing disappointment in the size of the lump, was ridiculed as early as the 1880s. The popularity of the street cry Bloom remembered, “Hokypoky, penny a lump”, is demonstrated by its inclusion in a music hall song even earlier, in 1878:

Mr Wilfred Roxby [...] sang a funny strain of an amatory kind with a chorus about a street vendor who sold "Hokey-pokey, a penny a lump".

Era (1878), 21 July

Harald Beck


1 As Thornton shows in his Allusions in Ulysses (1967), with a reference to the OED.

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