Where is the "head shop"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jun 17 09:13:28 UTC 2001

At 4:33 PM -0400 6/17/01, James A. Landau wrote:
>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.

Head shops didn't sell drugs, to my knowledge.  They did sell
paraphernalia, which at the time (at least in the states I lived in)
were not illegal, e.g. rolling papers and machines, and possibly
tools for the preparation of stronger mind-altering substances, along
with related T-shirts, Peter Max and M. C. Escher posters, incense,
maybe music, aids for meditation, retro-hip post-cards, magazines on
how to grow your own, etc. etc. --the psychedelic objets d'art to
which you refer.  Only later did a number of jurisdictions make the
selling of paraphernalia illegal.

>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 doubt it.  I assume that's mere homonymy, and that the actual
coinage involves the -head suffix which itself (according to the
RHHDAS, as cited a few days ago) gave rise to the free noun "head",
especially with the input from "pothead" and other relevant forms.

>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.
I thought they were out of business; are they really going on as the
Dead without Jerry Garcia?

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