Tag Archives: Conrad Roth

Wocky-Bocky; or, the general public

I found this in Conrad Roth’s review of Michael Neo Palaeologus His Grammar, by his Father Stephen N. Palaeologus:

The language of the Grammar is, in fact, utterly delightful, and possibly its chief selling-point. . . . Wocky-Bocky, the name of an Indian chief in a story by Artemus Ward, is resurrected to mean ‘the general public’.

Now this, it must be admitted, is perfect. So perfect that I intend to resurrect it myself. (I almost wish I were a more politically oriented person, so that I might have more opportunities to refer, say, to the Wocky-Bocky Republic of China, or to a certain rough beast which I should of course rechristen wockibockiocracy.) This post exists so that I (or, reader, you) can unobtrusively link to it when using the word, in much the same way that one might include a courtesy link to the Wikipedia page for an obscure historical personage mentioned in passing.

Here is the relevant passage from Artemus Ward’s Panorama:

But there were too many of these Injuns–there were forty of them–and only one of me–and so I said–

“Great Chief–I surrender.” His name was Wocky-bocky.

He dismounted–and approached me. I saw his tomahawk glisten in the morning sunlight. Fire was in his eye. Wocky-bocky came very close to me and seized me by the hair of my head. He mingled his swarthy fingers with my golden tresses–and he rubbed his dreadful Thomashawk across my lily-white face. He said–

“Torsha arrah darrah mishky bookshean!”

I told him he was right.

Wocky-bocky again rubbed his tomahawk across my face, and said–“Wink-ho–loo-boo!”

Says I–“Mr. Wocky-bocky”–says I–“Wocky–I have thought so for years–and so’s all our family.”

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