Saturday Song, Fiona Apple Makes it New with “Hot Knife.”

Fiona Apple performing in Seattle
Fiona Apple performing in Seattle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading a great article recently about the myriad of clichés that we use in our modern-day writing and speech, and how many can be traced back to Shakespeare. This one doesn’t seem to be traced to the bard, but then again I cannot find a source for its first use in English anywhere, despite the Oxford English Dictionary claiming it is a U.S. idiom.

The phrase I am talking about is “like a hot knife through butter.” Great image, right? Well, that’s how clichés get to be so common; they are precise, and they are often full of imagery that aptly describes something. In this case the metaphor is about how quickly and easily something is done.

But as far as I know Fiona’s song is the first literary use of the phrase which puts it in a romantic/sexual context. Maybe you can find another example? I find it hard to believe an Etta James or Nina Simone hasn’t already sung a sultry hot knife song, but this is the only one I’ve found.

And how she puts the old phrase to music, harmony and sings it in a round with herself–well, quite frankly, I find it stunning, and I think it qualifies as an example of what Ezra Pound insisted on for art, that motto of his, “Make it new.” Of course, his motto seems to be able to be traced back to the Shang Dynasty, but I’m okay with that; some of the best ideas are classic, tried and true.

Tell me if you think that this use of an old cliché qualifies as “Making it new.” Personally I found this a joy to listen to and watch, but it’s especially gorgeous in the car in full surround sound.

19 Replies to “Saturday Song, Fiona Apple Makes it New with “Hot Knife.””

    1. Been hard to find time. I started teaching creative writing this year, so I’m busier than I’ve ever had to be before. 8>} It’s a good experience, but my blog has fallen into ruin. Maybe one day I’ll rebuild. I do have some breaks coming up soon. Glad to see you’ve kept up the good work.


    1. The words really only tripped me up when I didn’t understand them. And Genesis rhythm is definitely growing on me; I wonder if that is a term she created or if it is already in use and means something specific. I’ve put off googling it, just to prolong the mystery. And yes I was thinking how I would love to hear a group do this live, wow, to be in that room would be awesome.


    1. Well, good! Because I hadn’t heard it either. Well, I heard of something along the lines of “like cutting through butter,” but I didn’t know it was a “cliche'” until I looked it up. I thought maybe I was just out of the loop. One more point for the originality score for Fiona then! 😉


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