That shivery feeling you get when something spooky, dangerous or dreamed of seems to touch you inside. Some people think the willies only applies to creepy things but there's also the good sexual kind of willies, unless, of course, I'm wrong about that. Also, the name of a rock and roll band from New Jersey.


One of my favorite bumper stickers of all time was one I saw in Germantown, TN. For those of you who don't know, Germantown is one of those areas of a major metropolitan area (in this case, Memphis, TN) where all the folks with money, both black and white, have decided to migrate in order to rid themselves of the uncertainty (that's a nice way to put it, eh?) of living in the inner city.

The mayor of Memphis at the time was a corrupt black man named Willie Herenton. He may still be the mayor, I don't know. But the bumper sticker was on a pick-up driven by a blue collar white guy and it said,

Memphis Gives Me the Willies.

I got a huge laugh out of that, and I don't care who heard it.


* * * * *

But whence cometh this phrase?

There's one theory which says that it comes from "willie-boy" which used to mean sissy, or someone who would be prone to getting the willies or the jitters.

The more likely source is the ballet Giselle. In the first act, a sturdy peasant girl (think German with lots of body hair) dances herself to death after being pursued by a bunch of suitors who don't make the grade.

In Act Two, Giselle (who is now dead but remarkably lively) sees another bunch of dancers who haunt the nearby forest. These sprites are known as "The Willies." These Willies wind up dancing the guy who Giselle really liked all along into the ground until dead. (There's a whole lot o' dancin' goin' on in this deal.) So, the two wind up living together forever, in a sort of way that I really don't want to understand.

The Serbo-Croation word "vila" would translate to "wili" or "willi" in English. It meant a spirit, usually a spirit of a girl who dies from being dissed by her only true love. So, the "willi" becomes the "willies" and it means the feeling that there's some weird shit going on.

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