Sunday, May 06, 2018

Where would we be without feet?

When you come to think of it the term foot is used for many purposes other than the description of that "terminal part of the leg". A quick look at Encyclopaedia of Australia will reveal such diverse references as: "she dances with a light foot" or "showing nifty footwork" meaning great agility. Apart from reference to the lower end, as in "it stands at the foot of the hill and "see the footnotes" The term foot is used in the English language to represent the most diverse set of human behaviour. The call of the grease paint and foot lights pertain to the life of an actor; "Footloose and fancy free" and "putting things on a loose footing" mean to relax formality and be without commitment.

Of course a foot contains 12 inches or 30.48cm"; and in poetry the foot is a basic unit of division in scansion, Common everyday phrases include: "to fall on one's feet", "land on one's feet", with reference to be lucky or successful; "find one's feet", to become independent of the help of others. "My foot!", or complete nonsense!; "to put one's foot down", is to be strict or firm; "to put one's foot in it", is to make an embarrassing blunder; "to stand on one's own feet", to be self-sufficient; footsie footsie is sex rearing its ugly head again and "to sweep off one's feet", is often what happens as a result. When things are not going as well as they might you may find yourself "under foot", meaning in the way; and of course eventually we all end up like Victor Mildew with " one foot in the grave".

My all-time favourite is "the games afoot, Watson" from Sherlock Holmes, meaning the commencement of the action starts here.

Reference can be made to foot as a verb, e.g. to walk: "we footed it to the shop"; and to pay as in "he footed the bill". 'To pussyfoot about' or "to be sure footed" displays a spectrum of meaning with the former being unsure with the latter assured.

Like the word "hand" both have everyday meanings other than the obvious. With the exception of head and back and of course the naughty bits, no other part of the human body features so prominently in the English language as the foot. Now why this is so, is not too clear but it may infer the importance the foot has to the human condition. Certainly we know cerebral development followed bipedal walking by two million years. This may in some way may have made the foot intrinsic to our psyche. Many cultures celebrate the foot and hold them with the greatest respect.

In Biblical times to wash another’s' feet was considered the highest mark of respect. The patron saints of shoe and surgical boot makers were all humble men.

Many people do become obsessive about feet and shoes. One Chinese Emperor became so fascinated with forecasting the future from readings of the sole of the foot (Solestry), he commissioned a set of encyclopaedias on the subject. There were 5,020 volumes!

Never one for buying one pair when she could have seventy pairs at a time, Greta Garbo could be described as a retifist. Shoe collection is a very common preoccupation with the most famous/infamous being Imelda Marcus.

Gloria Swanson was an altocalciphile (she had a heel fetish) and once had a pair of shoes made with corkscrew heels studded with imitation pearls to fit her beautiful feet.

Curofile (a leg fetish) D W Griffiths, the famous film director, once sponsored a beauty contest for feet and ankles with the first prize a 6-month film contract. The runner up was a pretty girl trying to break into the industry. Joan Crawford was her name, and her prize was a pair of made to measure shoes.

Reviewed 6/05/2018

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