Dive (was Re: Sad hour)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jan 9 01:44:41 UTC 2014

On Jan 8, 2014, at 6:28 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> At 1/8/2014 03:22 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> Of "dive," Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dive) says:
>> "(slang) A seedy bar, nightclub, etc."
>> Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dive_bar), however, says:
>> -----
>> A dive bar is an informal bar or pub. Such bars are sometimes
>> referred to as neighborhood bars, where local residents gather to
>> drink and socialize.
>> Individual bars may be considered to be disreputable, sinister, or
>> even a detriment to the community. This was especially true in earlier times:
>> -----
> Having grown up in earlier times (but later than Prohibition!!), I
> associate "dive" with something disreputable or potentially
> dangerous.  (And not with "informal" or "neighborhood", as Wikipedia
> asserts.)  But it may have acquired an upper-crust or posh sense,
> perhaps of "unusual" or "interesting because off-beat", more recently.
> Joel

Is there a term (other than more general terms like "rehabilitation", "reclamation", or "amelioration") for the process in which a pejorative term associated with the lower classes (in both economic and moral senses) is upgraded in this way? (Joel's "interesting because off-beat" gloss often comes close to describing the end-result.)  I'm thinking not only of "dive" for places but "rascal", "scamp", or "rogue" for people, and "raffish" or "louche" for the associated properties.  In each case, the earliest OED cites/glosses are all quite negative, and some of the synonyms of such words (e.g. those descriptors listed in the OED under these headings) haven't been as fortunate:  "sleazy", "creep", "villain",...  "Going rogue" is one thing (and has been since at least 1932), "going villain/unprincipled", if it exists at all, would be something else.  The fact that "dive" and "dive bar" seem to have parted evaluative company is a nice illustration of this randomness in which items!
  get pardoned.

>> I think the second sentence also means "neighborhood bars are
>> generally referred to as dives." That is how I understand the word
>> "dive," essentially the equivalent of a "tavern," a word I don't
>> hear people using much anymore. (In Washington State, a "tavern" is
>> defined as a drinking establishment that sells only beer and wine
>> (http://dor.wa.gov/Content/DoingBusiness/BusinessTypes/Industry/Tavern/default.aspx),
>> but I am referring to the atmosphere regardless of whether spirits are sold.)
>> I would not generally consider a brew pub to be a dive, though there
>> probably are places that could convince me of their diviness.
>> I'm not sure what VS is talking about exactly, but I suspect this is
>> along the lines of a divy brew pub that is, exuding an atmosphere
>> below the casual level.
>> Nobody else has commented on John Doe's (WG's) interesting
>> observation of dive vs. dive bar; this divy development along with
>> dive restaurants may be an indication that the word has shifted permanently.
>> This leaves the problem of what to call a disreputable bar. Even "a
>> shit/shitty hole in the wall" is likely a dysphemism for a divy
>> neighborhood tavern/restaurant.
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> On Jan 7, 2014, at 6:27 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > I've noticed conflicting usage in the last decade or so. One is indeed
>> > along GT's outline. But there's a particular "underground" sense where a
>> > dive bar would be fashionable among a particular kind of clientele. It's
>> > hard to describe, but it cannot be truly upscale, must be fairly well
>> > priced, serve particular kinds of drinks, including retro cocktails and
>> > exude a certain kind of "dive" atmosphere. Merely calling it
>> > "fashionable" is not enough. But it does appear to reflect a common GenY
>> > reversal.
>> >
>> >     VS-)
>> >
>> >
>> > On 1/7/2014 4:07 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> >> Good question. It might be a retronym to distinguish it from
>> dive restaurants. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dive says "A seedy
>> bar, nightclub, etc."
>> >>
>> >> On Jan 7, 2014, at 12:49 AM, John Doe <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>> >>
>> >>> On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 1:54 AM, Benjamin Barrett
>> <gogaku at ix.netcom.com>wrote:
>> >>>
>> >>>> dive bar
>> >>>
>> >>> In what way does a "dive *bar*" distinguish itself from an
>> ordinary "dive"?
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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