Bennies (slang term for Benzedrine)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Dec 22 09:51:13 UTC 2004

On Wed, 22 Dec 2004 03:59:13 EST, Jerry E Kane <Jerryekane at AOL.COM> wrote:

>When I saw the post bennies, I immediately thought of the slang term bennies
>(or uppers, circa 1950's for Benzedrine tablets) used by people to get a
>euphoric temporary high and to ward off sleep.  The drug was very popular
>among beatniks.

That was my first thought too, given all the drug terminology that's been
floating around the list.  OED2 has a first cite of 1955 for "bennies"
(from _Amer. Speech_), but Newspaperarchive turns up a 1947 syndicated
column by Earl Wilson:

  Syracuse (NY) Herald Journal, Nov 4, 1947, p. 2, col. 1
  A new thrill to the Greenwich Village stay-up set is canapes filled
  with benzedrine (also known as bennies or bee-bees).

MWCD11 gives 1945... does HDAS have it that far back?

--Ben Zimmer

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