Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hokey-pokey n.3

[ety. unknown; street cry ‘hokey-poky, a penny a lump!’ The ices were sold by Italians, sometimes doubling as organ-grinders, at one penny or a halfpenny each, but despite the popular ety., it does not come f. Ital. o che poco! ‘o how little!’; more likely is a link to hokey-pokey n.1 , i.e. the passing off of cheap versions of superior products]

1. (also hokey) a cheap variety of ice-cream, sold by street vendors; also attrib.

Georgia. Dept. of Agriculture: report for 1874 53: The street ice cream cone ‘hokey-pokey’ nuisance is fast passing out from the school corner and the newsboy’s alley and the traveling weiner-worst peddler has retired to the ‘crack’ in the wall.
Homoeopathic World 13 423: A cheap imitation of the Neapolitan ice is known-in the rough quarters where it finds favour by the homely title of ‘hokey-pokey.’ This consists of very bad cream- and very watery lemon ice cut into square tablets, folded in white paper, and sold at the rate of two a penny.
[UK]Worcs. Chron. 10 Dec. 2/5: Adulerated ‘Hokey-Pokey’ [...] It seems that genuine ‘hokey-pokey’ should consist of milk, cornflower, sugar and eggs, all boiled together and [...] frozen into small lumps.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 7 June 43/1: I said, ‘Yes: hokey-pokey, penny-a-lump’.
[UK]Huddersfield Chron. 25 Aug. 3/7: The deceased ate a pennyworth of ‘hokey-pokey’ and became very ill.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 10 Jan. 4/2: ‘Where are ye gaeing to, Cockey-Lockey and Henny-Penny. Go ye to secure hokey-pokey at a penny a lump?’.
[UK]A. Morrison Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 32: He floundered gallantly this way and that, among the shies and the hokey-pokey barrows.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 3 Apr. 7/3: Andrea had been selling ‘hokey-pokey’ [...] and stimulating his energies with wee drops of whisky. By the time the labours of the day were over he was ‘drunkie drunkie’.
[UK]Bateman & LeBrunn [perf. Vesta Victoria] A 'oliday on One Pound Ten 🎵 We fed the kids on Hokey, and a dozen buns and milks.
[Aus]‘Dads Wayback’ in Sun. Times (Sydney) 25 Oct. 3/6: ‘[E]f you'd like ter have a dash o’ Rome an’ Italian colorin’, chum up with one o’ them ice-cream hokey-pokey blokes’.
[UK]O.C. Malvery Soul Market 43: That luxury of children of the slums, ‘hokey-pokey,’ or street ice-cream.
T.W.H. Crosland ‘Shepherd’s Bush’ in Sonnets 19: A flip-flap and some hokey-pokey stands.
[UK]N. Douglas London Street Games 88: Hoky Poky, penny a lump, / The more you eat, the more you jump.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 78: Hokypoky penny a lump.
[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 10 Aug. 2/2: His business cry of ‘Hokey-Pokey a penny a lump’ was taken up and a second line added — ‘hat’s the stuff to make you jump’.
[UK]I. & P. Opie Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 186: In the big cities such as London and Birmingham, ice-cream is still sometimes referred to as ‘hokey-pokey’.
[UK]N. Dunn Poor Cow 9: I miss the ice-cream man. Hokey Pokey they used to call it. ‘Hokey Pokey penny a lump, the more you eat, the more you jump.’.

2. (N.Z.) a toffee-like sweet.

[US]N.B. Harvey Any Old Dollars, Mister? 89: Hokey-pokey and ice cream would only cost about fivepence.
[UK]Observer Food Monthly 36/3: I’m sitting here chewing on a packet of Original Hokey Pokey [...] on the label it says, ‘Hokey-Pokey, penny a lump, the more you eat, the more you pump.’.

In compounds

hokey-pokey man (n.)

an ice-cream seller.

Harper’s Wkly 35 721: Oh, I say, mother, the hokey-pokey man’s dead; there's black on their door.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 108: Young Ikey was dividing his attention between Ally Sloper, the Hokey Pokey man, and a band of Ethiopean serenaders.
[Scot]Eve. Post 21 May 3/2: Rushing the Hokey-Pokey man [...] Anderson [...] was charged with having assaulted an Italian ice cream vendor.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 38: Things began to warm up some, and I knew by the calendar that the hokey-pokey men had come out on the Bowery.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 29 Aug. 6/4: It’s always been a thrill to buy a halfpenny slider [i.e. ice-cream wafer sandwich] from a hokey-pokey man.
[Ire]S. Beckett Murphy (1963) 14: She [...] sat down on a bench between a Chelsea pensioner and an Eldorado hokey-pokey man.
[UK]Indep. Mag. 6 July n.p.: Cesidio [...] was a ‘Hokey Pokey’ man, the name given to the first Italians to travel the streets of London with makeshift ice-cream carts.