Antedating of Speed (=Methamphetamine)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Apr 14 17:42:09 UTC 2013

On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM, Baker, John wrote:
> The OED's earliest example of "speed" to mean an amphetamine drug, especially
> methamphetamine, is from the Avatar (Boston), September 1967.  It was used
> earlier in Nicholas von Hoffman, The 'Golden Dream' May Be Little More Than
> a Nightmare, Washington Post, Aug. 21, 1966, at E5, col. 1:
> <<It [sc. methedrine] is a powerful drug, an amphetamine, that starves the
> brain of oxygen and sends the soul scudding before misty winds.  They call
> it "Speed, "Battery Acid," "Fast Freak.">>
> It may be that the OED knows about this use of "speed" already, since its
> "meth" article cites to another article by von Hoffman in the Post from the
> same day.

I found the "meth" cite in 2004, but didn't catch the "speed" usage.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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