drink the kool-aid (1982, 1985)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 14 08:12:44 UTC 2010

Below are some more examples of the phrase "drink the kool-aid" and
variants after the Jonestown tragedy. Three are unverified Google
snippet cites, but the years given are plausible.

The London magazine Private Eye discusses the resignation of Conor
Cruise O'Brien from the editor-in-chief position of The Observer
newspaper in 1981 (I think). The phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" is used
to refer to the acquiescence of staff to a new editor.

Circa 1981, Private Eye, Page 10, Issues 497-522, London. (Google
Books snippet view, Data may be inaccurate, Issues 497-522 are dated
1981 in the Univ. North Carolina catalog. Date probes are ok)

Can it be, white-faced hacks are asking each other, that the double
vacuum caused by the imminent departure of editor-in-chief Conor
Cruise O'Brien and the resignation of chairman Thornton  Bradshaw will
be filled in whole or in part by none other than chief arse-licker,
name-dropper and 'conversationalist', the appalling Kenneth Harris?
Has the hour of the rough beast really come round at last? ...

Now nothing stands in his way. Nobody would be surprised to see him
get Cruise O'Boore's job, although the appointment would meet the
wholesale revulsion from the editorial floor. "We'd just have to drink
the Kool-Aid," said one staff member acidly.


William Sloane Coffin was a prominent clergyman and activist
especially in the 1960s and 1970s. He uses the phrase "Who should
refuse to drink from the vats (of Kool-Aid) of the Pentagon … ?

Circa 1979, The Lutheran, GB Page 18, Volume 17, Lutheran Church in
America. (Google Books snippet view, Data may be inaccurate, Volume 17
is dated 1979 according to Univ. Wisconsin, Madison catalog. Date
probes are ok)

  Dr. William Sloane Coffin, pastor of the interdenominational
congregation, described the Pentagon's contingency planning for
nuclear war and preparations for civil defense as "the Kool-Aid drill
without the cyanide.

  "Who should refuse to drink from the vats of the Pentagon if not
those who feast on the body and blood of Christ?" he asked 550 clergy
and lay persons from the U.S. and Canada who attended the conference.


A very similar quote from Coffin appears in another publication.

Circa 1979, The Living church, Page 6, Volume 178, Living Church
Foundation, Morehouse-Gorham Co. (Google snippet view, Data may be
inaccurate, Volume 178 is dated 1979 according to the Duke catalog.)


A 1978 New York Times article set at Love Canal, a neighborhood
associated with chemical contaminants in the 1970s, contains a quote
from the community association's president that uses the phrase "drink
the Kool-Aid". It seems to be a form of mordant humor.

1978 December 27, New York Times, A Joyless Noel For Niagarans Still
Remaining, Page B2, New York.

The branches are decorated with plastic caps from freezer containers,
each tied on with a red or green bow and bearing a little message of
cheerlessness - the name of one of the 82 chemicals found in the air
or groundwater at the canal: nitro benzoyls, trichlorophenol, benzene,
lindane, dodecane and others.

"Well, I guess we're going to have to drink the Kool-Aid," Lois Gibbs,
the association's president said, holding up a glass of fruit punch
and toasting the field of packed clay, bulldozers, cranes and
abandoned homes that has been the neighborhood since the construction
to contain chemicals began.

The Jonestown event occurred November 18, 1978 on December 1, 1978 a
speaker uses the phrase "drink the Kool Aid" to mean commit suicide.

Cite: 1978 December 1, Milwaukee Sentinel, Nelsons Only Human, Admits
Mistakes by Jill Lieber, Part 2, Page 3, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google
News archive)

"You know, basketball is such a part of me. It has become a way of
life. All the injuries we've had this year haven't depressed me. As a
coach I find them a challenge. The losing doesn't get me down like it
once did. I am used to the traveling and being away from home. Sitting
on a plane is like sitting in my living room.
  "And when it all stops, when it's all over? That's when you drink
the Kool Aid."

(Warning the transcriptions above contain errors.)

On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 1:16 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: drink the kool-aid (1982, 1985)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, Aug 14, 2010 at 12:56 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> But also check the OED citations for "Kool-Aid". The earliest is 1927
>> (Kool-Ade), but there is a Facts on File quote from 1978 referring
>> specifically to Jonestown. The interesting one is the one that follows
>> after the one for Jonestown:
>>> 1979 Washington Post 14 Jan. G8/1 No doubt about it, if he had ordered
>>> the SS to pass around the Kool-Aid [at the Nuremberg rally], all those
>>> crewcut Nazis would have tossed it back with the same fervor with
>>> which they cheered Hess' ravings.
>> It does not contain the specific phrasing "drink the Kool-Aid", but it
>> does carry the same meaning.
> Noted by Bill Mullins in 2006:
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0612D&L=ADS-L&P=R6440
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> http://benzimmer.com/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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