Enterprise is Great wrote:
It comes from a poem called "I Sing the Body Electric" by the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman. I've never read it so I don't know what it's about. But here's the text:
Looking over the poem, it seems to be a celebration of the human body as being just as worthwhile and perfect as the soul. Apparently the first line/title wasn't added until 7 years after it was first published. "Electric" wasn't yet a word in common usage, and apparently Whitman was using it figuratively to mean "thrilling," I guess as in something you get a charge out of.
And the ordering "body electric" instead of "electric body" is a poetic trope called anastrophe
, reversing the standard word order for emphasis. You see this elsewhere in poetry, as in "This is the forest primeval" or "Stone walls do not a prison make."
Ray Bradbury later used the line as the title of a story about a robotic surrogate grandmother, which was adapted into a Twilight Zone
episode. So he was taking "body electric" more literally there, which I assume is the antecedent for Dave's use of it in a story about Data and other artificial intelligences.