Where is the "head shop"?

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Jun 17 20:33:56 UTC 2001

When I was at Michigan State University (1965-69) there was a shop half a
block off campus that I am pretty sure was referred to as a "head shop".  I
never went inside so I don't know what it sold (I saw it only because it was
near a bookstore and the town's best Chinese restaurant).  Judging by the
window displays, it specialized in psychedelic objets d'art.

It's difficult to imagine a head shop actually selling drugs or illegal drug
paraphenalia---it's too obvious to the local police, and even if "the fix
were in" if the head shop sold drugs on its premises the police would raid it
before the local newspapers heard about it and put the police up to ridicule.

OED2 under "head n 1 sence 7e defines "head" as "A drug-addict or drug-taker,
freq. with defining word prefixed, as HOPHEAD, pot-head..." and has "hophead"
from 1911, "pot-head" from 1959, "acid-head" from 1966, and "head" without a
prefix from 1955.

"deadhead" is in the OED2, in an obsolete sense from 1576 and with the
present meaning "a person admitted without payment to a theatrical
performance, a public conveyance, etc." from 1841.  This sounds like
somethinng an imaginative and frustrated ticket agent or business manager
dreamed up as an insult.

Presumably the term "Dead-head" for a Grateful Dead fan was coined on the
analogy of the existing term for a non-paying attendee or passenger.  I look
forward to the day when the Grateful Dead go out of business because all the
Dead-heads have found out how to attend their concerts as deadheads.

                  - Jim Landau

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