– “Cool,” West Side Story (1957), lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
“Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” This quip is universally credited to Mae West, from as early as 1936, and there have been variations: pipe, rod, banana. As a device that emits, a pistol is metaphorically more descriptive than a banana. A man who is sterile is said to be firing blanks.
Arising from the same general shape and location, the rocket metaphor takes the penis beyond sex to other realms of male excitability. The Jets want revenge, and testosterone urges action. Hence the call to be cool (heat being a metaphor for emotion).
The timeliness of Sondheim’s rocket metaphor is noteworthy. The USSR launched Sputnik in 1957, and the rivalry for turf in outer space was on.