John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Hokey Cokey Nonsense

January 5th, 2009 · No Comments

There’s a light-hearted discussion going on over at Language Log about the Hokey Cokey, provoked by the Telegraph digging up the old story about its lyrics being anti-Catholic (a distorsion of “the Latin “hoc est enim corpus meum” or “this is my body” used by Catholic priests to accompany the transubstantiation during mass,” says the Telegraph). I think most people would feel intuitively that the idea is nonsense, simply because its associations with pub sing-songs and music hall suggest it must be more modern than that (not very modern, though – it immediately conjures up images of the Black and White Minstrels in my mind).

A slightly curious thing about the Language Log thread is that the posters have mostly been considering the words of the song, rather than its musical characteristics or its dance movements. This is not surprising, they are linguists, after all, but it does show how easy it is for a particular mind set to get in the way of clear thought.

Tags: Language · Translating

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