An initial 4A N2...?

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Jul 1 19:49:09 UTC 2002

> When we fly by the seat of our pants in declaring "pot" one thing and
> "grass" another, we air our opinions, but we do the linguistic world
> no service (except to let it know what our personal feelings are).

Guilty as charged regarding flying by the seat of my pants, but I would
substitute "personal experience" for "personal feelings." It is a judgment
based on how I've encountered the use of the terms, not on what I would like
them to be.

But you've challenged me to justify this judgment...

Googling on "pot marijuana" turns up some 124,000 hits, while "grass
marijuana" gets you only some 38,900. This is probably a pretty good
indicator of the relative popularity of the two terms.

Searching in NY Times over the last week (24 Jun-1 Jul), turns up 14
articles containing the word "marijuana." There are two articles containing
the word "pot" in the drug sense, one a letter to the editor and the other
an excerpt from a novel. There are no uses of "grass" in the drug sense for
the same period (lots of articles about Wimbledon though).

A similar search in the Washington Post also turns up 14 articles with
"marijuana." None for "pot" or "grass."

AP has some 20 articles with "marijuana" (that number is rough because AP
posts articles to the wire multiple times and I may have miscounted). It has
2 with "pot;" one uses it in a headline, the other in a direct quote. has six articles with "marijuana" for the same period. It uses the
drug sense of "pot" in two articles; CNN doesn't use quotation marks or
otherwise indicate that it's a slang term. Evidently, CNN has a different
editorial policy regarding use of the term than the other three.

Given their strict editorial policies, one would expect that mainstream news
articles would be just about the last medium to be penetrated by a slang
term. Here we're seeing "pot" starting to make its way into them.

Looking at, which provides a more general commentary and language
use than the strictly editorially supervised news services, we find a total
of 1528 articles online with "marijuana" (no date restriction on the search,
so you can't compare frequency of appearance with the above news sources).
Of these, 1197 use the word "pot," and only 48 use the term "grass." Salon
does not use quotation marks around "pot" or otherwise indicate that it is a
slang term.

Based on this, I stand by my statement that "pot" has made or is making its
way into standard American English, while "grass" remains a slang term.

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