This has always bugged me—what does the line “paying your H.P. demands forever” in Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” mean?

That’s not H.P. as in Hewlett-Packard, or as in the British brand of brown sauce. (What is “brown sauce,” you ask? Well, it’s basically bottled gravy and English supermarkets have aisles full of the stuff. It’s probably safer for you if you don’t have any more information than that.) The song is about, among other things, John’s relief at not getting trapped in an early marriage and all the domestic drudgery and bills that would have gone along with that. H.P. in this context is short for “hire purchase,” the no-longer-common British practice where you can rent appliances such as a TV for a weekly fee; after some years of rental, you can buy it for a nominal amount, which people called “buying it on the H.P.” or sometimes, “buying it on the never-never.”

(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)