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The 1957 song 'Let's Have a Party' by Jessie Mae Robinson includes the lyric:

I've never kissed a bear, I've never kissed a goon,

But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room.

What does the phrase shake a chicken refer to? From the context of the song, it seems like it might be a dance; other places guess along the lines of voodoo or something more overtly sexual.

For context, there is a clip of the line from the song from the film Party, starring Elvis Presley.

  • As these are song lyrics were most anything goes, the answers are going to tend towards opinion based. – Mitch Mar 6 '18 at 14:24
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'Shake a chicken' is probably a reference to the dance style, the Chicken

The Chicken was a style (or styles*) of dance:

The Chicken is a popular rhythm and blues dance started in America in the 1950s, in which the dancers flapped their arms and kicked back their feet in an imitation of a chicken. The dance featured lateral body movements. It was used primarily as a change of pace step while doing the Twist.

Confusingly, it is different from the similarly-named Chicken Dance (also known as Bird Song or Chicken Song), which features accordion music and is likely the better known. A recording of this song, The Birdie Song charted in the UK in 1981.

Given the content of the song involves preparations for, and various actions at, a party it is reasonable to assume that the lyrics refers to a dance which was contemporaneously gaining popularity in the United States.


*: Another source claims that "The Chicken is actually the name of several completely different dances. According to Manny Interiano of the “KPIX Dance Party”, it was basically a swing dance/cha cha variation."

  • Given that “shake” has a strong connotation with sex, I think that “shaking a chicken” is much more likely to mean “have sex with a woman” greensdictofslang.com/entry/7wrqd6a – user240918 Mar 6 '18 at 11:44
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    @user5768790 I find it highly unlikely that modern day slang would explain why singer, including female ones (Jessie Mae Robinson, Wanda Jackson) would mean that they were able publicly to have sex with a woman. Given the time this song was written, it would not have received a very positive response by the public and it would most likely have been banned. Apart from that, although chick is a common (pejorative) reference to a woman, I am not aware of chicken being commonly used in that sense. – oerkelens Mar 6 '18 at 11:54
  • +1 for the answer - the whole song is about having a party, which would likely include references to common occurrences at parties at the time, i.e. eating, drinking and dancing. – oerkelens Mar 6 '18 at 11:56
  • @oerkelens - chicken has a long history as a slang peggiorative term for woman: greensdictofslang.com/entry/bbbmfny. I think the expression plays on double meaning, and the sexual nuance does the trick. – user240918 Mar 6 '18 at 11:57
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    @user5768790 that's an interesting angle- I didn't realise there was support for that sense in usage at the time; with the double meaning and subversion of 50's morals it's worthy of an A in its own right I reckon – bertieb Mar 6 '18 at 12:08

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