The hokey-cokey?

Could it be that the hokey-cokey is the nearest thing we have to a national dance?

I found myself wondering this a couple of days ago as I launched into my fourth rendition, with actions, in the kitchen of a friend’s house.  I had been given the task of entertaining the smallest of the family’s brood, an energetic two year old girl.

I’m not skilled in child care, and know few of the songs familiar to contemporary small people; ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ was not one I knew as a child and so the later verses provide something of a challenge, especially when the only clues from my accompanist are general hand waving and ‘ush ush ush’ noises.

‘She knows the hokey-cokey,’ my friend called across from the stove.  My fate was sealed.

The last time I did the hokey-cokey was in a valley in the Cordillera Huayhuash in Peru, and the time before that was on a mountain side in Nepal……….


There is a tradition for the end of most mountain treks that I have been on, that, on the last night, there is a party.  It’s a celebration for the completion of the journey, the distribution of the tips and thanks to the support crew, and usually the opportunity to buy and share beer and rum.

There is always singing and dancing too; and everyone no matter how tone deaf or flat footed must participate.

‘This is one of our traditional songs,’ one of the local people says before launching into a tuneful ditty that eventually the whole team join in with.  Then there is a solo from the person on the crew, who is their ‘real singer’.

Everyone applauds.  And their eyes all turn towards us, the Brits, maybe an occasional American, the grit in the oyster, for us to perform our own traditional song or dance.

We look at each other blankly.  Is there a song to which we all know the words that would reasonably represent the wealth and depth of our culture suitable to share as part of a rich social exchange between people from different countries?


OK.  So is there any song to which we all know the words?

To my shame I have participated in a very ragged rendition of Abba’s ‘Thank you for the Music’, and less shamefully, but more embarrassingly, a duet of The Monkee’s ‘I’m a Believer’, in which I was responsible for the do-waps, shalalalas and doo be doos.

But still that is never enough, as if baiting us, the crew then asks for a dance.  Blankness is replaced by horror when someone finally suggests the hokey-cokey.  And, as we insist that everyone participate,it becomes rapidly apparent that the Nepali/Peruvian people have all done it before – raising their arms, turning around on cue and then finally, with great enthusiasm and speed, all rushing towards the centre of the circle at the climax.

We’re not the first group with no better ideas.

Next time I vow I will be better prepared.  In the meantime, does anyone know the sixth verse of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’?

Leave a comment


  1. I can’t help with any verses of ‘Wheels on the bus’ though I know how you felt. I worked away from home all week whilst my kids were growing up. When I used to arrive home on Friday evenings the first thing I would be asked by my kids was to sing along to all these rhymes I’d never heard of!

    I’m also picturing a group of people on some lonesome mountain path doing the hokey-cokey with some amusement. I bet there are few places where it would look more out of place.

    • Glad to know I am not alone in my ignorance! Between leaving school and just now, I think the only places I’ve ever done the hokey-cokey are on mountainsides!

  2. margaret nickels

     /  March 5, 2011

    like many of these songs there are several versions! there was a time in my life this was part of my specialist subject , however I do have to say that I was not aware of a sixth verse! there is one missing which we used to sing about the babies on the bus ……. as for your other bit of the theme and shared culture( or not !) fascinating…. time was any song by the Beatles was de rigeur in such situations !

    • Yep got the babies and the mothers on the bus, but I think there’s more! Funnily enough I don’t remember anyone ever suggesting the Beatles…..


Do let me know what you think.......

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: