"roach" = 'joint' butt--anything before 1938?

Towse self at TOWSE.COM
Mon Nov 17 19:11:15 UTC 2003

Sam Clements wrote:

> The term 'roach' is cited first in the US from a New Yorker story in 1938.
> The writer visited a marijuana party in Harlem and came away with some
> slang.  The OED cites from the New Yorker story--"A pinched-off smoke, or
> stub, is a roach."
> Any earlier use of the word?  I checked the archives and other on-line
> sources.  Found nothing.
> Jesse?  Anyone? Is there an earlier cite?
> And  what I, and the readers at the Straight Dope,  want to know--what's the
> derivation of the word?  Any thoughts?  Doug?  Is it too simplistic to think
> that the item in question looked like the bug?

La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque la falta
Marijuana que fumar

Perhaps it's just misremembered misinformation heard by a kid growing up
on the eastside, but "common knowledge" in the late 1960's in the south
SF Bay Area was that "roach" came from "cockroach" and "cockroach" for a
stub of a handrolled doobie was an evolution from this little Mexican
ditty from back 'round the turn of the last century.

I notice that "Straight Dope" has references to "la cucaracha." Was my
"common knowledge" just misinformation then?


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