The Third Leader: Foot fault

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The Independent Online

Forgive me, but I have been thinking about the foot. No, no, not that foot: that is everywhere else. Still, I confess it was that foot that started me thinking about the foot, but in a different way. For it seems to me that, of the body parts, and despite its importance, the foot has never really achieved the recognition it deserves.

Consider, for example, these phrases: "putting your foot in it", "foot in your mouth", "feet of clay": not complimentary. And that other popular usage, to shoot oneself in the foot, is used to denote foolishness, but in fact derives from the First World War, when it was done in the trenches, deliberately and rather intelligently, considering the alternative.

Why footling, rather than, say, neckling? Why should it be the leg that someone hasn't got to stand on? We know the foot's importance in sport, but even here we are left with a nasty taste in the mouth: athlete's foot. And another thing: what has the foot done to deserve being fetishised? Or smelly?

How, too, do we fete the father of the foot, Henry I (1068-1135), the man who showed himself to be a ruler by measuring his pedal extremity and setting the standard? Where is he buried? To the best of anyone's knowledge, under a car park in Reading. And some even doubt it's his feet, pointing out that 12 inches would mean size 14s. But couldn't he have had his boots on?

No, it's all part of a culture of disrespect: the foot is the Cinderella of the body. Time, I would suggest, to stop looking down on it.