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What does it mean to "pick your feet in Poughkeepsie"?
October 24, 2007 3:28 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean to "pick your feet in Poughkeepsie"? (From the movie 'The French Connection')
posted by lazy robot to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Ages ago I saw an interview on TV with Gene Hackman where he was asked this question. If I remember right, his answer wasn't particularly illuminating. He implied that the meaning of the words was fairly irrelevant but he liked the mental imaged it invoked and that the rhythm and partial alliteration created the right effect for the scene. But Hackman didn't write or direct the movie so make of it what you will.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 4:00 AM on October 24, 2007


I remember seeing that interview as well, but I vaguely recall Hackmann saying that it was a phrase used by the detective his character was based on. IIRC, he used it for its pleasing rhythm, and the fact that the nonsense question would disorientate suspects and help the interrogation.
posted by Jakob at 4:55 AM on October 24, 2007


I have heard that it was a non-sequitur but with the implication of bending over and that the person being questioned was being accused of being involved in homosexual relations inside the jail at Poughkkeepsie.

Basically accusing the guy of being gay in a roundabout way. This could of course be nonsense.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:08 AM on October 24, 2007


The DVD commentary answers this question. I think it's Franken who tells the story, but I'm not sure.

Basically, you say something that sounds slightly ridiculous, slightly awful, and keep repeating it, and the suspect keeps denying it, getting more and more upset as you go on. Then, when you've got them thinking you believe they've done this horrible thing they don't really understand, you switch and say, "OK, so you weren't picking your feet in Poughkeepsie that night, but you were doing X, right?" Where X is the thing you want to know if they were really doing. By this point they should be so rattled that they'll say yes to this thing they did actually do, because at least it's not Poughkeepsie foot-picking.

They got the routine from the cop who Popeye was loosely based on. There are some nice stories about Hackman & him in the commentary.
posted by fidelity at 5:56 AM on October 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Friedkin, not Franken. Jesus.
posted by fidelity at 5:58 AM on October 24, 2007


Fidelity,
That's a totally fascinating reply.

It reminds me of the clever way a much less surreal phrase was used recently in a period novel - when kids repeatedly overheard adults murmur of a dubious character: "he's light in his loafers".

While they couldn't accurately decode the coy slang for "secretly homosexual" - they grasped something sinister was implied in the alliterative rhythm.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:10 AM on October 24, 2007


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