[Ads-l] New York Daily News interview request

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Tue Mar 1 22:10:23 UTC 2016

On Mon, 29 Feb 2016 at 15:57:39 Zone+0000  "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at MST.EDU>

Yesterday I received a request for an interview on NYC nicknames and 
then received a follow-up message:
"By the way, I see that you have written about slang -- do you know 
about etymology of drug slang? I.e., why are they called junkies, why is 
heroin called dope/smack/horse, how did MDMA come to be called ecstasy? 
Why is weed called pot? If so, I feel like that could be a fruitful 
topic for a separate story."
<end quote>

I'm far from an expert on drug slang but I would be happy to hazard a few guesses:

"Horse" for "heroin" might be simply from the initial "H"

"Junkie" I would guess comes from "junk" for drugs.  

An interesting note about "dope":  Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller wrote "The Story of Walt Disney" which in NO PREVIEW on Google Books.  Quoting from memory, when the name "Dopey" was suggested for one of the Seven Dwarfs, there was an objection that "Dopey" implied the dwarf was a "hophead" which I assume is a euphemism for "drug user".

"Dope" can mean "cocaine" as well as "heroin or other opium derivatives".  This led to a usage (which I have never heard orally) of "dope" to mean "Coca-Cola".  (MW 11th Collegiate page 372 entry for "dope" says the usage of "dope" for "a cola drink" is "Chiefly Southern").  

"Dope" and "junk" both have pejorative meanings.  Perhaps their usage to mean "illegal drugs" is a result of people searching for pejorative terms to describe drugs.  Similary (I suppose) "shit" to mean heroin has the same explanation.  This however does not explain where "smack" came from.

MDMA might be called "Ecstasy" because it gives (some?) users an ecstatic feeling.  On the other hand, "Ecstasy" may have been created by drug dealers to advertise their product.

- Jim Landau

Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list