1847, "false cheap material," perhaps an alteration of hocus-pocus, or from the nonsense chorus and title of a comic song (Hokey Pokey Whankey Fong) that was popular c.1830. Applied especially to cheap ice cream sold by street vendors (1884), in Philadelphia, and perhaps other places, it meant shaved ice with artificial flavoring. The words also were the title of a Weber-Fields musical revue from 1912. The modern dance song of that name hit the U.S. in 1950 ("Life" described it Nov. 27, 1950, as "a tuneless stomp that is now sweeping the U.C.L.A. campus"), but it is said to have originated in Britain in World War II, perhaps from a Canadian source.
: It might sound weird or hokey pokey, but it works
: candy bars on the hokey-pokey counter
[fr an earlier sense of hokey-pokey, ''cheat, swindle,'' ultimately fr hocus-pocus; the ice cream is said to have been named in Italian, O, che poco, a child's cry at the paucity of the portion]