Friday, February 5, 2010

Body Parts Express

Earlier this week, I heard Huey Lewis' "Hip to be Square"—a song I hadn't heard on the radio for a long time. It struck me this time about "hip" as a body part. I find it odd to think of a body part having a positive connotation as "hip" seems to have. Sure, in the context of the song, hip is a desirable attribute. Soooo, I decided to hop on the hip (no hip-hop or hippity-hoppity) train and mentally wander from cowcatcher to caboose and back and forth to collect tidbits and tidbytes for this article.

I started to think about other hip uses and also other body parts. Anyway, I mentally segued to a "hip" song released in the 60s—"Hippy Hippy Shake", associated with the Beatles and also the Swinging Blue Jeans. Around that same time, "Mohair Sam" (Charlie Rich)—notable for its title and some of the lyrics—mentions "hippie" in hipness terms. At the time of the song's popularity, "hippie" had not yet connoted counterculture long hair.

Well - who is the hippie that's happenin' all over our town?
Tearin' up chicks with the message that he lays down
Who is the coolest guy, what is, what am?
That's fast-talkin' - slow walkin' - good-lookin' Mohair Sam.

Chugging along on the hip route, my stream of consciousness began yielding the following hip terms in addition to hippie: Hippy Dippy Weatherman (George Carlin character), hippo, hippopotamus, Hippocrates, hippocratic oath, Hippolyte/Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother), hippocampus, hypnotism, hypocrisy, hypocrite, rose hips, Hutto Hippos, …

Thinking of other body parts, there are numerous associations with expressions and songs. Parts that come to mind are neck, arm, toe, back, nose, cheeks, ear, lips, eye, finger. (Be forewarned: I do drop an occasional homophone.)

To stick a neck out, to neck, bottleneck, breakneck (speed), nekkid. (OK, so that's an almost-homophone I'm sneaking in. )

Something costing an arm and a leg, strongarm, stiffarm, call to arms, army, armada, armor, Armor All, armadillo.

The House episode this week included a portrayal of a soldier who shot off his toe in an attempt to get around his stop-loss order. This incident made me think of Catfish Hunter's having shot off a toe. What a pitcher he was while with the A's! When he pitched his perfect game, there had been a headline "Catfish Hunter Hurls Perfect Game". That sports headline HAD to have been really confusing for anyone who didn't know who Catfish was or what a catfish hunter was or why he would throw (out or away) a perfect game!

Anyway, back to toeing the line about toes. BTW, the term refers to using a toe to draw a line in the sand, a do-not-cross boundary, sometimes mistakenly written as "towing the line" because of the homophonic nature of "toe" vs. "tow". "Towing the line" seems more applicable to motorboat drivers pulling water skiers than drawing lines in sand. OK, I'm moving back to talking about toes—toetap, toehold, toenail (wood), stand toe to toe, not the same as meet face to face, see eye to eye, have a tête-à-tête, dance cheek to cheek, …

Have someone's back, have your back to the wall, throw out a back, backbreaking (work), back someone, back up (physical movement, records duplication), look backward, back down, back off, comeback, "Get Back" (Beatles),"Back in the USSR" (Beatles), Come Back Little Sheba (movie), backstab, Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap star), Baccarat (casino card game), baccalaureate (bachelor's degree or sermon to bachelor's degree graduates), Chewbacca (hairy one in Star Wars), Burt Bacharach (song writer), "Come Back When You Grow Up" (Johnny Tillotson), "Baby Come Back" (Players), "I Want You Back" (Rolling Stones, Jackson 5). Whew! Several songs have to do with backs! OK, I also sneaked in back homophone words and syllables. Also threw in some backs that aren't the body part. :-)

Keep your nose to the grindstone, have a nose for news, nosegay (small bunch of flowers), cut off nose to spite face, put your nose out of joint.

Dance cheek to cheek, be cheeky, nice cheeks (reference to the body parts that resemble cheeks but aren't), cheek by jowl.

Have the ear to the ground, earful, lend me your ears (quite a visual for those unfamiliar with Mark Anthony's opening speech at Julius Caesar's funeral), [H]ear ye [h]ear ye here come de judge (Flip Wilson), walls have ears.

Lipstick, "Lipstick on Your Collar" (Connie Francis), Loose lips sink ships, lip lock, lip service.

Eyeball, eyesore, "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor), "I Only Have Eyes For You" (Platters), "Spanish Eyes" (Al Martino), "Bette Davis Eyes" (Kim Carnes), "My Eyes Adored You" (Frankie Valli), "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time" (Wayne Newton). OK, I'll skip most other homophones, as "eye" provides lots of bull's eyes for associations, such as all sorts of other songs, ay caramba, aye aye captain, iPhone, iPod, Iraq, ICU, I See You (expression and song from Avatar), I Spy (TV show).

To finger (point out), fingerling (small young fish), give someone the finger, Fingerhut (mail-order company), Butterfinger (candy), butter fingers (oops!), lady fingers (cookies). Related: Thumb, as in "Under My Thumb" (Rolling Stones).

In the interest of keeping the article suitable for family consumption, I decided to refrain from naming additional body parts. In case you're curious to see what terms I omitted, the Hair soundtrack has a song about body parts ("I Got Life"). Honorable mention—"What's New Pussycat?" (Tom Jones). References used for this article: Google searches, YouTube searches,, various lyrics sites resulting from google song-title lyrics searches, and chitchats with others.

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