“Jiggery-pokery” means trickery, deceitful or dishonest practices for personal profit.

Synonyms include baloney, bunkum, hogwash, flapdoodle, flim-flam, flumadiddle, rubbish, hooey, hot air, motor mouthing, and poppycock.

The word “jiggery-pokery” has a pleasing rhythm and is a classic example of a double dactyl. A dactyl is a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. “Dactyl” comes from the Greek word for finger, the three joints representing the three syllables.

The word is first found in print at the end of the 1800s. The English Dialect Dictionary quotes an example: “I was fair took in with that fellow’s jiggery-pokery over that pony.”

Among the Scots, the word “jouk” (from the 12th century) led to the notion of joukery or jookery to describe underhanded dealing or trickery. “Pawky” is another Scottish word, meaning artfully shrewd. A “pawk,” on its own, is a trick. And, by 1686, some inventive Scottish speakers had combined the words in the phrase “joukery-pawkery,” which they used to describe clever trickery or sleight of hand. From there, it was a short linguistic path to becoming jiggery-pokery.

Other meanings of “jouk”all imply to dodge or duck, to dart or spring out of the way or out of sight, to skulk, to evade, to elude, to bend the body adroitly (like an acrobat), to bow or cringe. It isn’t difficult to connect these to “clever trickery.”

Another form of the word, “joukery-cookery,” is more specific in that “cookery” means “cooking the books.” 

As a former accountant, I’ve seen my share of “cooked books.” They were nicely browned, but bloody in the center.

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