"Up tight" (1967 drug ref)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri May 26 09:02:04 UTC 2006

We've gone around "uptight" here a few times, most recently in a
thread where I wondered whether methamphetamine users were responsible
for the mid-'60s shift to the 'nervous, on edge' sense. I quoted some
reminiscences that suggested this, referring to the Feb. 1966
mixed-media event known as "Andy Warhol Up-Tight":


I haven't found any contemporaneous evidence that the name of the
Warhol event was intended as a drug reference. But on Google Book
Search I came across a good source for the drug-related sense from
1967: _Up Tight!_ by John Gimenez (as told to Char Meredith), a memoir
billed as "the true account of a destructive journey along the drug
route and miraculous entry into a land of freedom." An excerpt:

I was a stinkin' filthy no-good junkie, twisted out of my mind. Up
tight. Bound by dope. A chronic addict. A chronic criminal. A chronic
liar. There was no way out. The doctors said it. The psychologists
said it. The narcos said it. My family said it. (p. 17)

Unfortunately, like so many titles on GoogleBS, only selected strips
of text are visible. There's a two-page "junkie's glossary" at the
beginning of the book that looks pretty interesting, though. Might be
worth the $2.95 that it's selling for on Alibris.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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