"Up tight"

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Mon Aug 1 17:10:28 UTC 2005

Here's an etymology of this term. I can no longer remember whether I
thought this up myself or somebody told it to me or I read it in Ebony
or somewhere.

Most, if not all, of the men here, not to mention some unknown
percentage of the women, will have noticed, that, under conditions of
lust, the scrotum ceases to hang loose. Rather, it slowly tightens up
until the testes are pulled up tight against the base of the penis. In
some men, this tightening-up is so extreme that any trace of the testes
is all but lost in the scrotal folds, i.e. "up tight and out of sight."
There's a point to this that has to do with human reproduction, but
I've forgotten what it is.

Needless to say, this is a *positive* circumstance.

OTOH, the very same change takes place under conditions of fear, the
point being that the scrotum acts as a living jockey strap, getting the
testes up tight and out of the way, so as to protect the testes from
harm as much as possible or to make it easier to run, should it come to

Needless to say, this is a *negative* circumstance.

I'm sure that the more mature of us remember the positive use in the
line from "Fingertips part deux," by Little Stevie Wonder: "Everything
is all right! Up tight and out of sight!" The oldest searchable example
of the purely negative use that I can recall is from the movie, "The

IIRC, the pawnbroker is closing shop for the day, when a black robber
with a pistol comes in. Needless to say, the pawnbroker tenses. When
the robber sees/intuits this response, he attempts to reassure the
pawnbroker with the words, "Cool it, baby. Don't get up tight."

-Wilson Gray

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