1961 article on teen slang

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Sep 14 16:22:25 UTC 2007

> On 9/14/07, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> The following article by Gay Pauley, UPI women's editor, appeared in
> various newspapers in December 1961. (Newspaperarchive has it in: San
> Antonio Light, Dec. 12, 1961, p. 21; Long Beach Press-Telegram, Dec.
> 14, 1961, p. 8; etc.)
> A nest is a hairdo. Chrome-plated is all dressed up. A grody is a
> murgatroid, or a square also. Psyche it out means to think
> a problem through. Wave your wig is to comb your hair. Failed to orbit
> means you failed to get a date. It's been heaven but I think I'll jump
> for earth translates simply as the evening's over.
> Teen torture is homework, a coffee pot is the life of the party, and a
> fungus among us means there's a character in our midst. A library kiss
> is one with lots of volume. Germ warfare is kissing. Earth pads are
> shoes. Skull drag is to study, King George's jive is English, and the
> creep catalog is the yearbook.

On 9/14/07, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> Back in the 'Fifties, we used to say: "Take it easy, greasy. There's a
> fungus among us," rhyming "among us" with "fungus."

On 9/14/07, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> HDAS has a "fungus among us" from ca1960, with plain old "fungus" some
> decades earlier.

The earliest I've seen for "there's a fungus among us" is 1957, in
another teen slang article I posted here:

"Grody" and "murgatroid" are interesting additions to the list of
synonyms for "square, n." I've only seen "grody" as an adjective
(OED/HDAS 1965), and then with more of a "gross" than "square" sense.
"Murgatroid/Murgatroyd" I suppose is just a funny-sounding name like
"Poindexter". Cassell's Dictionary of Catchphrases notes that Bing
Crosby says "Very good, Murgatroyd" to Bob Hope in Road to Bali
(1952), long predating Snagglepuss of "Heavens to Murgatroyd" fame.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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