Robo (1978), tuss (1993), dex (1994)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sun Aug 21 23:20:02 UTC 2005

Grant Barrett has a DTWW entry for "robotripping" (or "roboing"), meaning
"the recreational use of over-the-counter cough syrup for its narcotic

"Robo" is a shortened form of the brand name Robitussin. Here's an early
cite for the nickname:

 * Robo, n. 'Robitussin'

 1978 S. MARSHALL _Young, Sober, and Free_ 83 After about two days of no
 Robitussin, Wade told me about a drug that was just like Robo, only it
 was more powerful and cost more.

Another nickname is "tussin" or "tuss", which has also become a verb --
perhaps by back-formation, reanalyzing "'tussin" as "tussin'"?

 * tuss, n. 'Robitussin'

 1993 _Robitussin as a drug_ in _alt.drugs_ 20 Jul., The best way I've
 found to ingest the stuff is to mix 4 oz. of Tuss with 4 oz. Sprite and
 gulp wait until your stomach settles and repeat.

 * tuss, v. 'to take Robitussin for its narcotic effects'

 1993 _Tuss_ in _alt.drugs_ (Usenet newsgroup) 7 Sep., I like the fact
 that people have been saying good things about 'tussin. I tussed for
 years and no one could understand my love for it and said it wasn't a
 "real" trip.

The narcotic ingredient in Robitussin and other over-the-counter cough
syrups used to be codeine, but it began to be replaced by dextromethorphan
(DXM) in the '70s.  This has been shortened to "dex" (confusingly, since
"dex" previously referred to dextroamphetamine), which of course has also
spawned a verb.

 * dex, n. 'DXM'

 1994  _Robitussin DM_ in _alt.drugs_ (Usenet newsgroup) 10 Feb., With
 dex (dextromethorphan that is) you almost can't tell that its a chemical
 making you feel good.

 * dex, v. 'to take DXM, usu. in the form of cough syrup'; dexing, ppl. n.

 1996 _DXM question_ in _alt.drugs.psychedelics_ (Usenet newsgroup) 20
 Feb., Also, if you want to have a BLAST when you're dexing, try some
 nitrous during your peak.. it's far out.  Happy dexing.

 2003 _USA Today_ 29 Dec. A1 (Factiva) Kids don't have to drink entire
 bottles of goopy cough syrup to go "Robotripping" or "Dexing." Pills
 such as Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold tablets -- known as "Triple C's" --
 offer far more potent doses of DXM with less hassle.

--Ben Zimmer

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