the meat and the motion

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 28 00:27:53 UTC 2010

At 3:37 PM -0500 1/27/10, Charles Doyle wrote:
>It's not the meat, it's the motion. 1951 The saying may have entered
>oral tradition from the title and recurring line of a
>rhythm-and-blues song written by Henry Glover and recorded by The
>Swallows: "It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion)." Or, the song may
>have been built around an existing proverb, as yet undiscovered.
>Proverbial uses of the expression do not appear in print until the
>1980s, after Maria Muldaur's popular rendition of the song in 1974
>had nudged it--and the saying--toward the (white) mainstream.
>Interestingly, in the song the term _meat_ refers sexually to a
>woman ("It ain't the meat, it's the motion / Makes your daddy want
>to rock");

I distinctly remember Maria (D'Amato) Muldaur singing "...that makes
your mama want to rock".  I don't have that one on my iTunes,
curiously, although I have 15 other songs of hers, but that's my
memory.  Scrolling through googled references, the first page has
multiple hits for "makes your mama/momma want to rock", "makes your
daddy want to rock", and "makes your baby want to rock", so that's
not much help.  I find it hard to believe that "meat" refers here to
a woman, or any parts thereof, at least when MM sings it.  I'll try
to find an actual recording to confirm this.


>however, in the proverb _meat_ usually designates a penis (though
>occasionally some non-sexual referent). 1983  Cynthia Heimel, _Sex
>Tips for Girls_ (New York:  Simon & Schuster) 187: "Stop any girl on
>the street and ask her if she cares if a man is well hung, and she
>will look at you aghast. 'Of course not,' she'll say, 'it's !
>  not what you've got, it's how you use it. It's not the meat, it's
>the motion.'"  1984  Cecil Adams, _The Straight Dope_ (Chicago:
>Chicago Review) 45: "In short, your best bet is to reconcile
>yourself to your present equipment. Remember, it ain't the meat,
>it's the motion."  1984  Leslie R. Schover, _Prime Time: Sexual
>Health for Men Over Fifty_ (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston)
>50: "[A]s the time-honored saying goes, 'it's not the meat--it's the
>---- Original message ----
>>Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 14:16:24 -0500
>>From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> (on behalf
>>of Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>)
>>Subject: Re: Bad Girls speak>
>>>Folklorists & Freudians: At Speed Dating, Natalie asks prospective
>>>boyfriends, without introductory context, "Which do you think is more
>>>important? The size of the boat, or the motion of the ocean?"  As she
>>>explains to her mansionmates later, "If he says the size of the boat, it
>>>means he has a tiny penis."
>>And here I would have drawn the opposite conclusion, but what do I
>>know.  And then there's also the female perspective, as in Maria
>>Muldaur's 70's classic "It's Not the Meat, It's the Motion".
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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