As y’all know, I’m rather word-obsessed. I’ve been meaning for some time to write a Top Five list on Overused Words. No. 1 would be “iconic.” Trouble is, I can’t think of any other words sufficiently overused to deserve a place with that one. It would take all five spots. It’s especially a problem in news headlines. About one out of 10 times it’s used appropriately. The rest of the time, not especially. But whether proper or not, it’s used way too much.
But today, I’m going to speak briefly about “weed.” It’s been quite some time since I’ve heard anyone under the age of 50 call marijuana anything else — unless they’re trying to sound prim and proper, in which case they might say, “cannabis.” (We generally stuck with that during the aforementioned campaign, as less provocative to those opposed.)
Bud made me think of this (again), when he wrote in a comment on the last post, “Waaaaaay past time to legalize pot for whatever the reason.” Poor old codger, throwing such terms around…
If I remember correctly, that one — which had been around a long time — started becoming a bit passe by the latter 1960s. I think that happened sometime before Granny told the cops she was going to “smoke some crawdads… but first I need a little pot!” That was Oct 4, 1967:
Once a prime-time network sitcom was using the term in jokes, “pot” was obviously not, well, countercultural. Cool people were more likely to be using something else from the following list:
- Alice B. Toklas
- Crazy weed
- Da kine
- Loco weed
- Magic dragon
- Mary Jane
- Whacky tabacky
There were many, many more — here’s one larger list, which I worked from — but I just thought I’d go with a few of the more familiar ones on the list. (Or, in the case of Alice B. Toklas, one that I thought was creative, but not all that commonly used.) Some, of course, weren’t used so much for the substance as the delivery system (“joint”). Some were used ironically to make fun of old-timers (“reefer”). And some were meant to apply just to specific varieties (sinsemilla). But all were used, if I recall correctly.
By the ’70s — which is when most people caught up with the ’60s — the number of terms dropped way, way down. Most of the time, people just said “dope.” Or, if they wanted to make sure it didn’t appear on a sitcom, they said “shit.” Usually in the context of “good shit.” I suspect too many people were stoned at this point to be verbally inventive.
Of course, the stuff is much stronger now than it was then, and maybe that’s why those who indulge don’t try to diversify. They don’t even come up with a new term, but stick with the tried and true, somewhat pedestrian, old “weed.” They don’t even try to shock the little old ladies with words like “dope” or “shit.” Maybe they realize the little old ladies used to call it that. I dunno…
Sure, you hear other words here and there, even from younger folks. But my observation still stands. “Weed” has become, you know… iconic…