Sunday, September 19, 2010

You Can Leave Your Hat On and Keep It Under Your Hat

Maybe you remember our Mexican party where Rod came, inspired by one of the pictures in club, with his private parts covered with a sombrero. Yesterday he showed me that he asked dad (Echo Douglas), to make him a new profile picture. At first I was thinking that it was made on our beach and that dad trying out the shadow options. But a second look showed me that it was not and Rod told me that it was made in dad's studio.
"You Can Leave Your Hat On" is a song written by Randy Newman and appearing on his 1972 album Sail Away. It was made famous by Joe Cocker when featured in the 1986 Adrian Lyne film 9½ Weeks during the famous striptease scene. It first appeared on his album from that year titled Cocker.

In the lyrics, the singer is addressing a sexual partner as he/she disrobes as a prelude to a sexual encounter, perhaps in a striptease fashion. The vocalist in most recordings of the song is male, and is presumably addressing a female, due to the lyrics "Take off your dress." There are exceptions, for example Etta James did a cover version; in her version the line "Take off your dress" is modified.

American country music singer Ty Herndon covered the song on his 1999 album, Steam. Herndon's version reached #70 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart from unsolicited airplay and was included on his 2002 compilation, This Is Ty Herndon: Greatest Hits. Michael Grimm performed this song on the fifth season of America's Got Talent during the semifinals.

Tom Jones performed a version of the song on the sound track of The Full Monty film released in 1997.

"Keep it under your hat", meaning: Keep it secret.
On first hearing this seems a rather strange phrase. Why should people put anything under their hats and, even if they were to, why would that be associated with secrecy? The speculation is that putting an item under one's hat would be a way of hiding it. Such trickery is recorded, as in the collection of stories, published as The Adventurer, 1793:

"By a sudden stroke of conjuration, a great quantity of gold might be conveyed under his hat."

The most commonly repeated speculation on the 'hiding under one's hat' theory of the origin of this expression is that English archers in mediaeval times used to store spare bowstrings under their hats to keep them dry. Let's just get that out of the way. Firstly, keeping dry isn't keeping secret, so even if archers did store strings that way, and there's no evidence that they did, where is the connection to the phrase's meaning? Secondly, and it would have been kinder to put this first as it entirely dismisses the archer tale, the phrase isn't known in English until the 19th century - so much for a mediaeval origin.

It is much more likely that there's no direct link to hats at all and that 'keep it under your hat' just meant 'keep it in your head'. That's the meaning alluded to in the earliest citations of the phrase in print. The oldest of such that I can find is in Charlotte Mary Yonge's novel, Nuttie's Father, 1885.

"Alice Egremont's loving and unsuspecting heart was so entirely closed against evil thoughts of her husband... while Nuttie, being essentially of a far more shrewd and less confiding nature, was taking in all these revelations... It was all under her hat, however, and the elder ladies never thought of her, Alice bringing back the conversation to Mrs. Houghton herself."

The same meaning is evident in Anthony Trollope's What I Remember, 1887–89:

"The man whose estate lies under his hat need never tremble before the frowns of fortune."

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