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To "trip the light fantastic" is to dance nimbly or lightly, or to move in a pattern to musical accompaniment. It is often used in a humorous vein. As early as 1908 it was viewed as a cliché or hackneyed phrase. More recent usage includes Quentin Tarantino's movie Inglourious Basterds when Diane Kruger's character said "I don't see me tripping the light fantastique up a red carpet anytime soon." after being shot in the leg, and as an album title for electronic artist B.T. with his debut album, "Tripping the Light Fantastic". Grammatically, it is an example of a constructionally idiosyncratic idiom, in that it is impossible to construct a meaningful literal-scene from the formal structure. As such it should be viewed as a catena.
Com, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastick toe.
The imagery of tripping on toes also appears in Shakespeare's The Tempest: "Before you can say come, and goe, / And breathe twice; and cry, so, so: / Each one tripping on his Toe, / Will be here with mop, and mowe."
This expression became popular from the song "Sidewalks of New York" (melody and text by Charles B. Lawlor and James W. Blake) in 1894. Part of the chorus: "Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke / Tripped the light fantastic / On the sidewalks of New York."
In 1967, Procol Harum released its hit song, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", with lyrics by Keith Reid, that included a play on the phrase, "skip the light fandango" casting Milton's light and nimble dancing in a modernist perspective: