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Hokey Cokey and Púca

Posted by Shae on November 23, 2002

In Reply to: Pooky/Pookie posted by TheFallen on November 22, 2002

: : : : Try as I might, I can not find the origin of the endearment. A friend said she thought there was a comic strip or fictional character at one time called "Ooky Pooky," but again, I can find no reference to it. Anyone?

: : : Couldn't that be 'Hokey Pokey'?

: : The closest thing I found is "pooka" or "phooka," an Irish word for "a hobgoblin, a malignant sprite" (OED); related to Welsh "puca," goblin. "Pookie" sounds like baby talk to me, in a category with "snookums."

: I think I am right in saying that there was a children's book (or series of books) around in the UK during my mother's childhood - so 65 or so years ago - featuring Pookie, a winged rabbit. In fact, checking Amazon confirms this, the series being written by someone called Ivy Wallace - see sickeningly cute example jpg. I doubt that the flying rabbit spawned the term though - more likely vice versa.

I heard recently that the composer of the 'Hokey Cokey' died last year. All went well until the funeral directors tried to install him in his coffin (casket). They got his left leg in but his right leg caused a problem.

In Irish folklore, the púca is a malevolent being that spoils blackberries. In the form of a horse, it takes unsuspecting mortals on a dangerous ride. Those who survive are usually addled for the rest of their lives. A common speculation links the púca to the English folk figure Puck, although the Welsh 'pwca' is a more likely Celtic cognate.

The invisible rabbit in Mary Chase's comedy, 'Harvey' , is identified in the text as a pooka.

Main source: MacKillop, James, 'Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology,' OUP, 1998.