The conversation yesterday evening took a strange turn mention of a very old bar here in town, called ‘De Bierelier’. Any Dutch readers will understand that its nickname ‘De Hoereloer’ resulted in hilarity (for non-Dutch speakers, from beer seller to whore watcher). Maybe purely because of the sounds, we quickly moved on to ‘olleke bolleke’, originally from a child’s verse in the Netherlands, later introduced as a poetic form by Drs P in 1974, and the Dutch version of jiggery-pokery when it was used in 1967 as the title of poets Anthony Hecht and John Hollander’s anthology of double dactyls, a poetic form they invented. Many others have ‘jiggery-pokery’ as the first line because of that nice bounce in the six syllables.

Higgledy, piggledy,

Anna Karenina

Went off her feed and just

Couldn’t relax.

Then, quite ignoring the


Threw in the sponge and was

Scraped off the tracks

(John Hollander)

First cited in 1845, jiggery-pokery comes from Scottish dialect ‘joukery-pawkery’ and means dishonest manipulation. Modern-days scams. It is also often used to describe the fumbling kind of adjustments that have to be made to get certain technical equipment to work: most printers need some jiggery-pokery for the paper feed to work smoothly. My printer does, for sure!