I used this word the other day in a conversation with my daughter, and she cracked up. (I had said that, "So-and-so is a bunch of hokum!") She accused me of making it up, so I said, "That's a word! Look it up in the dictionary."

At this point, I wished I could have taken it all back, 'cause I was sorely afraid it would not actually be there. I mean, there are several words we use which we've picked up somewhere which aren't really words, right? And you don't want to look like an idiot in front of the kids. However, there it was:

(hõk´am) n. {altered « HOCUS (-POCUS)} {Slang}
  1. crudely comic or mawkishly sentimental elements in a play, story, etc.,
    used to gain an immediate emotional response.
  2. nonsense; humbug; claptrap.

I suppose it must have become a word since 1913. This was taken from Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1979 ©.

Hokum was a colorful style of music popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Typically associated with African-American performers, hokum songs were fast-pasted, showy, and syncopated, and often had sexually suggestive lyrics. Hokum songs were usually played with guitar, piano, and base and used primarily major and dominant seventh chords with a lot of stepwise transitions and circle of fifths tomfoolery. Lively and upbeat, hokum was sometimes known as "hot jazz."

In jazz history hokum occupied the transition period between ragtime and swing. When hokum-style music was played on a piano, it was often called honky-tonk. One of the principal exponents of the hokum sound was blues great Tampa Red, who formed a band called the "Hokum Boys" with pianist Georgia Tom in the late 1920s. A classic example of a hokum is Robert Johnson's "They're Red Hot."

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