Hang loose! 
Posted: 14 January 2014 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This hortatory expression is often used to signify “relax!”, “keep calm”, “take it easy”, “enjoy life”, etc. Many Internet sites offer definitions, but none that I can find actually explain the term, or give any clue as to its origins.

I have at the back of my mind the idea that the phrase refers to the cremaster muscles, from which are suspended the testicles of a fully equipped human male. Normally, these muscles are relaxed, and the testicles hang loose: during emotional stress, or sexual arousal, they contract, drawing the testicles upward (this is the reason for “sore balls” in males who experience prolonged, unresolved sexual excitation). 

Can anyone throw any light on the origin and meaning of the term “hang loose”?

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Posted: 14 January 2014 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There doesn’t seem to be any specific meaning, testicular or otherwise, to the phrase. The separate terms hang, loose, and tight all arose about the same time, seeing print in the late 40s and early 50s, and likely dating to WWII slang. The phrase hang loose seems to be just a natural collocation of disparate slang terms, rather than referencing something specific.

HDAS records hang, meaning to loiter, be idle, from 1941, with a citation from The New Yorker.

Loose, meaning calm, unperturbed is recorded from 1952, with a first citation from a movie about WWII: “Stay loose, kid. Take it easy.” Retreat, Hell!. The phrase hang loose is first recorded in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.

HDAS, which ends at the letter O, doesn’t have an entry for tight, but it records hang tight from a 1947 western novel, Buckaroo’s Code by Wayne Overholser. The OED records sit tight from 1738, so that phrase may have been a model to which hang was applied.

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Posted: 14 January 2014 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thinking back to my days in the military, when you’re standing to attention you’re as stiff as a board. On the command ‘Stand at ease’ you assume the at ease position and relax the muscles a little. Then on the command ‘Stand easy’ you relax completely and loosen all the muscles. Hang loose fits that last situation to a T.

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Posted: 14 January 2014 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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On the command ‘Stand at ease’ you assume the at ease position and relax the muscles a little. Then on the command ‘Stand easy’ you relax completely and loosen all the muscles.

The American Military positions are “Parade Rest” which is the same as your “stand at ease” I guess. I’ve always taken “at ease” (usually “at ease gentlemen” in my day) to mean to relax completely while standing. You could even move your feet and talk quietly.

There is the expression in Left Pondia “How’re they hangin’?” which is to ask “how’re ya doin’?” but is a comical reference to the male gonads (or at least I’ve always taken to be so).

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Posted: 14 January 2014 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, ‘stand at ease’ in the British army involves standing with legs apart, hands clasped smartly behind back. It does not involve, as any drill sergeant would gently remind you, shuffling of feet, chatting to the guys around you or casting eager glances towards the NAAFI. That would be ‘stand easy’.

And right, ‘how are they hanging’ has a testicular basis.

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Posted: 14 January 2014 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There is the expression in Left Pondia “How’re they hangin’?” which is to ask “how’re ya doin’?” but is a comical reference to the male gonads (or at least I’ve always taken to be so).

In my experience “How’s it hangin’?” is the common salutation, with “it” referring to the star of the hanging trio.  (Comedian George Carlin used “How’s the hammer hangin’?") Humorous replies that I’ve heard include “slightly to the left” and “long an’ loose an’ full o’ juice!”.

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Posted: 14 January 2014 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The American military positions are “Parade Rest” which is the same as your “stand at ease” I guess. I’ve always taken “at ease” (usually “at ease gentlemen” in my day) to mean to relax completely while standing. You could even move your feet and talk quietly.

The sequence in the American military is:

Attention, standing straight, heels together and toes pointing at a 45-degree angle, head and eyes forward, arms at one’s side. You come to attention when addressing an officer.

Parade rest, legs apart, hands clasped rigidly in the small of the back, eyes and head facing forward. You come to parade rest when addressing an NCO.

At ease, relaxed posture, feet remain in place, arms relaxed and hands loosely clasped in the small of the back (you may move them for a quick scratch), you may look around, no talking.

Rest, relaxed posture, left foot remains planted, the right foot is free to move, you may talk quietly.

Rest, smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, self-explanatory, I doubt this one is used that much anymore as the military discourages smoking.

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