Little, Feat…

Many songs these days involve one or more other artists guesting with the main one. Rappers adding a part to a singer’s track, for example. Nowadays such guests are always credited. Quite rightly: we’ve come a long way from the days when Billy Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs uncredited (though visible in the famous Apple Music rooftop performance).

As featured artists, such guests are nearly always credited using the abbreviation “feat.” “The Beatles feat Billy Preston,” to give an example that was never used.

But “feat” is a word on it’s own, of course, as well as an abbreviation. Which I think may be why I always find the formation slightly amusing. And there used to be a band called Little Feat, if I’m not very much mistaken (I’ve never knowingly heard them).

So I’ve been wondering how the modern crediting style would have worked if they had ever been guests, or had featured guests, on any of their songs. “Little Feat feat Joe Feet.” “Legs & Co feat Little Feat.”1

Alas, it was not the way back then. Though their Wikipedia article suggests they’re still around, so it could happen.

More surprisingly it tells us that they changed “Feet” to “Feat” as a “homage to the Beatles.”2 I had no inkling of that connection when I mentioned the Beatles above.


  1. Yes, I know Legs & Co were dancers. I’m just trying to make up mildly amusing names. I invented Joe Feet. []
  2. I’m assuming that refers to the story of the Beatles naming that involved them wanting an insect name like Buddy Holly & the Crickets, but changing the spelling so it read as beat music. []

Pivoting Around Words

I should start a new category here, for word-use. In fact, having written that, I just have: language (hopefully that link will work once I publish this).

Today I want to talk about the word “pivot.” As you know, pivot has come, over the last few years, to mean change direction, especially in a political context. A recent example from the New Yorker: Don’t Be Fooled. Donald Trump Didn’t Pivot.

It sort of makes sense, but like many knew usages, I can’t help but wonder why it has come into this use.

And for this one I also can’t help but wonder to what extent Friends is responsible.

You’ll know the episode I’m thinking of, if you’ve seen it: Ross is moving in to a new apartment, and being too cheap to pay the delivery charge, ropes Rachel in to help him move a sofa. Inevitably they get stuck on the stairs, and he keeps shouting at her, “Pivot! Pivot!” to try to get her to turn the sofa in an unspecified direction.

Of course, he might have been using it quite precisely: the sofa probably needed to rotate about a fixed point, which is what “pivot” originally meant.

What it has come to mean, in politics, is a change of direction less than a U-turn (or flip-flop); but still quite a substantial one. I suppose it has a sense of turning without moving forward at the same time. Though I may be overthinking it there. It’s quite descriptive, but it seems like it has becoming ubiquitous incredibly quickly; and is already practically a cliche.

Of course that’s just my view of the optics of the thing.

Optics

The word “optics” used to mean the science of light. It still does, of course, but it now also refers to “how things look,” in terms of public image and so on.

And it from what I can tell it has only come into this use in the last year or so. I first heard it on tech podcasts, but it was recently in a front-page headline (though the second story) in The Guardian. And I heard it on the telly. I think it was in Agents of SHIELD, wherein they included an explanation of what it means.

I can see how it can be used in its new meaning, but how did it come to be used that way?

And it seems that I’m right that it’s relatively new: Wikipedia, googling: both only turn up definitions like “the branch of physics to do with light.”

Now Urban Dictionary’s top definition is exactly what I’m talking about:

What something will look like to the outside world; the perception a public relations person would have on something. First seen (at least by me) in article by Equity Private on finance blog dealbreaker

Economists repurposing words from real science to dismal? Sounds entirely plausible.