The word pompatus (also spelled pompitous, pronounced /ˈpɒmpɨtəs/) is a neologism used in the lyrics of Steve Miller's 1973 rock song "The Joker":
The phrases "space cowboy" and "gangster of love" are both references to previous Miller songs. The "pompatus" line is also a reference to an earlier song of his, "Enter Maurice", which was recorded the previous year:
Although Miller claims he invented the words "epismetology" (metathesis of epistemology) and "pompatus," all of his song-writing demonstrates strong rhythm and blues influences, and a 1954 song called "The Letter" by the Medallions had the lines:
The song was composed by Vernon Green as a description of his dream woman. "Pizmotality described words of such secrecy that they could only be spoken to the one you loved," Green explained. He coined the term puppetutes "to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children."
Pompatus in pop culture
The word pompatus has, because of its peculiarity and seemingly nonsensical usage, became a minor pop trivia icon. Wolfman Jack frequently referenced the phrase and there is a soundclip of him using the line within the song "Clap for the Wolfman" by The Guess Who. A 1996 movie titled The Pompatus of Love starring Jon Cryer featured four guys discussing a number of assorted topics, including attempts to determine the meaning of the phrase. The line has been mentioned in various television show gags, including The Simpsons and South Park.
Humor columnist Dave Barry frequently refers to the song line as a source of comedic value, particularly in his 1997 book, Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. Pompatus is used by Michael Ondaatje in his 2001 book, Anil's Ghost. Stephen King uses the word in his 2006 novel Lisey's Story. Tim Dorsey uses the word in his 2010 novel, Gator a-Go-Go.
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