Slang for crystal meth

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Aug 4 03:05:44 UTC 2005

On Wed, 3 Aug 2005 22:07:47 -0400, Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:

>Newsweek  August 8, 2005
>"... Crank, so-nicknamed because bikers would hide meth in their
>motorcycles' crankcases"

Looks like this is a popular explanation:

This has all the hallmarks of an urban-legend/etymythology, including a
lack of verifiability and numerous variations on the theme. (Is the
crankcase a hiding place or a reaction vessel? Is it a motorcycle
crankcase or a truck crankcase?)

HDAS has "crank" back to 1969, but I don't see the "crankcase" derivation
until 1995 (S.F. Chronicle, "The Kiss of Meth", 8/27/95) -- though there
was a 1989 DEA crackdown on San Diego meth labs known as "Operation
Crankcase" (could this have simply been a pun on the DEA's part?).

I'd go with the much more mundane explanation that the drug "cranks up"
the user.

--Ben Zimmer

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