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Penkava: What does the fox really say?

It happened while we were at my son’s house watching a Blackhawks hockey game. He suddenly leaped from the couch and announced, “Hey, Dad, I’ve got to show you something!” and ran out of the room.

What could it be? He’s a pretty spontaneous guy. Once, before he was married, he brought his snowboard into the living room to show us a new move. Our classic antique hutch still bears the long scrape mark from that failed backside 360 spin.

Then there was the time he wanted to demonstrate how he could balance a puck on the tip of his hockey stick’s blade as he swung it around. He later blamed lack of centrifugal force as the reason why our television screen now contained a hockey puck.

So, as he disappeared to get something to show us, we all anticipated the destruction of some living room object. His wife grimaced. My wife grabbed a sofa pillow for protection. His young twins innocently commented, “Daddy sometimes breaks things.”

But we were all a bit relieved when he returned holding only a laptop. Unless he was going to spin it on his index finger, we were all pretty safe. “I want to show you a cool music video!” he declared as he sat it on the coffee table and invited us to gather around.

Music video? I don’t think I’d seen one since I saw ABBA’s “Super Trooper” in the 80s. But, mamma mia, here I go again, and I would soon discover how much music and video have changed over the years!

With a click of a keyboard key we were suddenly watching the video of a song entitled, “What Does the Fox Say?” For the next three minutes and forty-five seconds we all sat captivated by the catchy tune with strange lyrics sung and danced to by bizarre animal characters. It was like ABBA for preschoolers on a sugar high.

When it was over our son asked, “Well?” and I spontaneously cried out like a sucrose-crazed 4-year-old, “Play it again!” Surprisingly, no one protested and we were again swaying to the techno beat as the fox gyrated in his unique version of an omnivorous mammalian primeval dance while intoning such cries as “Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!” and “Chacha-chacha-chacha-cow!”

After the second viewing, we all needed a bit of a breather to process what we had just experienced. Then the conversation began.

My son declared, “Wasn’t that the greatest video you ever saw?”

His wife commented, “At least you didn’t break anything.”

The twins innocently disclosed, “Daddy plays the fox song all the time.”

And I shrieked, “Wa-po-po-po-po-pow!” as I busted into a foxy hip-hop shuffle step.

Our discussion then became a bit more serious. We started to wonder, “What does the fox really say?” So we searched the Internet and found some sites that contained fox vocalizations. As we listened, we tried to take their sounds and write them into words. And that’s when we made an amazing discovery.

It appears that, depending upon the species of fox, some of their cries were very much in harmony with what we heard on the video. If you really stretched your imagination, you could actually hear a “Fraka-kaka-kaka-cow!” from the red fox and an “A-hee-ahee ha-hee!” coming from the arctic fox.

But, unfortunately, we could not find any foxes that could dance like the one on the video. So that part is pure Hollywood. Unless you count the courting moves of the Fennec fox, which at times resemble a combination of the Hokey Pokey and the Moonwalk.

But you’ll have to see for yourselves what I’m talking about. Join the almost a quarter of a billion people who have seen this music video. And, trust me, one viewing will have you scratching your head muttering, “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoff!”

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He claimed that viewing the video so many times was doing “research” for his column. He continues to watch it as “post-publishing assessment.” His wife calls it “just another phase.” He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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