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I am watching the excellent documentary "Nobelity" by Turk Pipkin:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobelity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turk_Pipkin

4 minutes into the movie, there is a bit that I don't understand. Here is the transcript:

Do you ever get the feeling that everything really is broken? That no matter who you are or where you come from, the world is somehow divided into us and them. Here I am, Turk Pipkin, shooting my film "Nobelity" at a Shiah festival in Kolkata. I was warned not to say that I am an American But it's not like they couldn't tell. My camera man said I looked like a human cue tip.

The picture shows Turk Pipkin, a very tall caucasian man with pale skin and white hair, holding his camera and surrounded by short Indians with dark skin and dark hair.

I understand that the cameraman wanted to say that he stood out in the crowd, but I don't understand the expression "human cue tip". At least that's what it sounds like: I am not sure I transcribed properly.

Can you explain this expression and the metaphor?

[Edit:] Oops, the movie is actually "One Peace at a time", another of Pipkin's movies:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Peace_at_a_Time
I got confused because he refers to his earlier movie in the quote.

The answers make sense. I didn't know the brand "Q-tip". What's the word for brand names that are used as common nouns in every day language?

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What's the word for brand names that are used as common nouns in every day language? Answer: generic(ized) trademark or proprietary eponym. –  Jimi Oke Mar 28 '11 at 3:05
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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I believe you are thinking of Q-tip. The passage means the guy was tall and very white by comparison with his companions.

enter image description here

You can read all about it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_swab

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+ 1 for tall. –  Jimi Oke Mar 28 '11 at 2:44
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I believe the comparison of Turk to a cotton swab in this instance has as much or more to do with his hair than with his height or skin color. It is very white and, well, cottony! –  Callithumpian Mar 28 '11 at 2:53
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@Calli: Ah, thanks for the link. Didn't even know how Turk looked like until now. Definitely, his hair plays a big part in this metaphor. Great point! –  Jimi Oke Mar 28 '11 at 2:59
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Cue tip is a misspelling of Q-tip, a popular brand of cotton swabs/buds in the United States. Here, Q-tip is as a metaphor for Pipkin's height† and whiteness, both of which stand out in sharp contrast to the physical features of the Indians surrounding him.


Credit for the "height" aspect of this metaphor goes to Robusto's answer. Included it here in the spirit of completeness.

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