I once interviewed a guy, back in the early days of blogging, who insisted on referring to the non-digital, non-online world as “meatspace.” It was trendy at the time, and he refused all nudges to use another word or phrase. The more I looked at my notes, the more I hated the word. It brought to mind a picture of walking veal chops and beef roasts, perhaps leaving grease trails in their wake, like slugs. (Has someone done an online quiz for this yet? “What Cut of Meat Are You?” I like to think of myself as something tasty and delicate, like rack of lamb, but I’m probably closer to a plain old pot roast — cheap, tough, but capable of tenderness after long simmering.)
The digital age has given us some imaginative slang. I think it was one of William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels that first used the term “meat puppet,” to describe genetically engineered sex workers. I like it better than “hooker,” but it never caught on. Whereas every third site I visit seems to use the term “pwned,” which I’ve never really understood. (Oh, I get that it’s a typo-y version of “owned.” So why not just say “owned?”)
“Meatspace” never got into wide use, either. I guess others didn’t think of themselves as whole fryers or pork tenderloins, either.
Anyway, I was thinking of slang this week, after my local weekly ran a story that sent me racing to the bathroom to check the mirror, so sure was I that I had stepped into a time-space crevasse and had fallen into 1971. The story was on the dangers of drugs. It included a sidebar, headlined “Some drug lingo rings a few bells.” It rang none with me, but then, I always ran with straight talkers.
The cocaine years raged around me in the 1980s, and in that time, I can recall only a few alternative words for it. There was “coke,” of course. Occasionally someone would call it “blow,” but always half-ironically, aware of sounding like a pamphlet. “Bolivian marching powder” was for total, arched-eyebrow wiseasses, specifically those who’d read “Bright Lights, Big City.” No one ever called it “nose candy,” which sounded like something a narc would say. And I never, ever heard anyone use the term “Angie,” which, my newspaper informed me, is not only slang for cocaine, it’s “the title of a song by the Rolling Stones.” As is “Aunt Nora,” “coconut” and “Roxanne.” Hmm.
Remember how old you felt when you learned rappers were calling marijuana “the chronic”? How about these hipster alternatives? “Babysitter,” “catnip,” “Colorado cocktail,” “haircut,” “yeh” and “yellow submarine.” I can’t wait to sidle up to a Grosse Pointe high school kid at TCBY and ask where I can score some haircut.
I read this Thursday afternoon and snickered to myself. I was working in the living room later that night when I heard Alan, at the kitchen table, mutter “Jesus Christ.”
“Someone’s reading the Grosse Pointe News,” I called out.
“Let’s ‘fly Mexican airlines,'” he called back. (“To smoke marijuana,” the paper informed its readers.)
One amusing passage I made a note of: To use Ecstasy and Viagra together is known as “hammerheading.” Woo-hoo.
(My favorite drug slang was always hyperlocal, like the time a truck driver told me that amphetamines of all sorts are known among long-haulers as “west coast turnarounds.” Maybe he just made it up. Great slang, though. A girl I knew swore that in the Upper Peninsula, marijuana was known as “browns.” The word was infinitely adaptable. You could smoke a brown. “Let’s get browned.” And my favorite, “Need a brown to bring you around?” She also claimed “strap” as a synonym for sex. Seldom have I heard a putdown as succinct as “All she wants to do is strap.” The UP is a funny-talking place.)
What’s the strangest, silliest or most apt slang you’ve heard? Leave it in the comments. I’ll be on the road most of Monday, so I look forward to coming home in the afternoon and building my vocabulary.