Monday, July 25, 2011

Bill Shatner says "bushy toupee".

As human beings, we share countless common experiences. One such example is the simple act of waking up after a night of sleep. Will today bring something positive, or new, or even astounding? The promise of each day is a never-ending cycle in our lives. But how often do we wake up and imagine that this day will yield an audio recording of Bill Shatner saying the phrase "bushy toupee"? Today is such a day...

The phrase in question is found in the audio version of Bill Shatner's 1993 book Star Trek Memories. Of course, Bill Shatner is not referring to his own toupee, but rather relating the story of how actor Walter Koenig was cast in Star Trek (The Monkees similarity, Pravda myths. bringing in a younger audience etc.) as the Russian ensign Pavel Chekov:

The key part in context:

In reality, the true motivating factor behind
Star Trek's second season cast addition was The Monkees. You see, at the time Star Trek was beginning to amass its small but rather loyal following, The Monkees were exploding onto the television sets. These imitation Beatles quickly became a national phenomenon and fans of the Prefab Four were generally young, vocal and enthusiastic. Gene [Roddenberry] conjured up the character of Pavel Chekov as a close approximation of Monkees front man Davy Jones. Sure, Gene slapped a Soviet accent onto our new ensign, but one look at Chekov’s first episodes, and the bushy toupee he was forced to wear [until his real hair grew long enough], will illustrate the Monkee-mimicry point. Still, despite the silly coiffure, Walter eased his way onto the Enterprise bridge with a minimum of difficulty and his performances were full of life, energy and a remarkable sense of fun." [emphasis ours]

Now, to focus on the crucial phrase...

What's interesting here is that Bill Shatner wasn't forced to say "bushy toupee". It was his book, after all! He could have ignored or downplayed the hair point or just said something like "large wig". But instead he chose "bushy toupee" - a phrase that was certain to raise eyebrows across the globe. And only seconds later, he piles on with "silly coiffure" too.

Undertaking some toupological analysis of the key section of the audio recording, we find that Bill Shatner appears to say "bushy toupee" as matter-of-factly as he can. Fast, clinical, no stress, no emotion - "nothing to see here," he appears to be subconsciously saying. Indeed, the word "toupee" quickly morphs into "he" as in "toupee he was forced to wear" - another subtle sign that the author wants to zoom past this particular place as quickly and inconspicuously as possible.

Yet, the above is revealing in itself. One of the top toupologists at our Department of Psychotoupular Linguistics explains:

"The determined effort to not emote creates an unwitting subconscious tension in the words. Try saying matter-of-factly, 'today I cleaned up the house, went shopping, ran over the cat, returned a book to the library'. No matter how hard one tries to say 'ran over the cat' with a mundane intonation, there is an unavoidable tension in the words, because your brain simply knows how unusual that phrase is within the above matter-of-fact context."

Our staff using a specially designed touposcope to analyze the "bushy toupee" voice recording.

The toupologist continued: "Thus, Bill Shatner can't really say 'bushy toupee' matter-of-factly, because for him the toupee is such a hugely important object. But, he can pretend to say it matter-of-factly. Yet, in so doing, a tension dynamic is created that is itself revealing - and that is really what toupology is about!"

Star Trek Memories abridged audio version is widely available for purchase.


  1. He took a deeep breath... and said the T word. Bravo, Bill!

  2. Tom Snyder's GhostJuly 27, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    If you want to start comments on hair...If you want to start hair comments...

  3. Have a Shatner toupee story?
    We'd love to hear it.
    Subspace frequency-scrambled.