Slang City Mail

Click here get this free weekly newsletter delivered to your e-mailbox! Want to see more? Go back to All the Words main page.

February 13, 2003

Slang of the Week: dig (verb)

reefer (noun)

Bill Clinton claimed that he didn't dig reefer - that's why he didn't inhale.

Celebrity quote:
I never did drugs. I tried smoking reefer, but for the most part I never did drugs or alcohol. I just didn't dig it.
-Bernie Mac

Both of these words have been around for a long time. Dig first appeared in the 1930s and became immensely popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Who can forget, for example, the grammar intensive chorus of the 1969 hit Grazing in the Grass, by the Friends of Distinction - "I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it, Oh, let's dig it. Can you dig it, baby?"

Although dig never went out of use completely, it was considered somewhat old-fashioned in the 80s and 90s. In 1994, it was exposed to a younger audience when director Quentin Tarantino revived the term for his retro film Pulp Fiction (in which John Travolta tells Samuel L. Jackson he should go to Amsterdam because he'll "dig it the most!") Even so, it isn't used now in mainstream culture as much as it was in the past. It is, however, commonly used in rap music, such as Coolio's Can U Dig It (no relation to the Friends of Distinction song).

Reefer dates from the 1920s, and is believed to come from the word grifa, Mexican-Spanish slang for marijuana. Though pot is a far more common term, reefer will never go out of style as long as there are a few prints of Reefer Madness in the world. That exploitation film, made in 1936, shows innocent American youths raping, murdering and going completely insane after taking one puff of a joint (marijuana cigarette). After 67 years, it is still a popular movie on college campuses, though generally considered a comedy these days.

What's new at Slang City?

What's gaslighting? Where did the expression "sell the sizzle and not the steak" come from? Find out in this week's Ask AC.