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August 8, 2008

Slang of the Week: stoner (noun)
a drug user, especially a habitual marijuana user

Arnie seemed like a nice guy, but Mr. Fields didn't want a stoner for a son-in-law.

Celebrity quote:
"I don't want people walking into The Wackness thinking they are going to see a stoner movie. It's not a stoner movie at all - even if the characters do smoke a lot of pot [marijuana]."
—Director Jonathan Levine

You would hardly guess that marijuana use is illegal in the United States* based on the number of popular comedies about stoners. Though pot was once demonized as an instigator of violence and suicide (as it was in the 1936 exploitation film Reefer Madness), these days, chronic marijuana smokers are usually portrayed as harmless and happy-go-lucky.

1998's The Big Lebowski, for example, shows Jeff Bridges as a lovable pothead (marijuana smoker) whose accidental involvement in a kidnapping case is secondary to the concern he has over his ruined living room rug. In Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), the entire film revolves around the two central characters seeking relief from the munchies (craving for food brought on by pot smoking).

Perhaps the most classic film in the genre is Up in Smoke (1978), featuring comedians Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. Chong plays a character named Anthony Stoner, and among other pot-related events, the pair unwittingly drive a van made of marijuana from Mexico to the US.

This year has been a stoner movie bonanza. First, there was The Wackness (about a teen pot dealer), then Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (in which they are mistaken for terrorists while smoking pot on an airplane). This week brings Pineapple Express, in which stoner Seth Rogan witnesses a murder. Unfortunately, he leaves behind a roach (the unsmoked end of a marijuana cigarette) and the criminals are able to trace him because of the rare “Pineapple Express” variety of pot he was smoking.

While Pineapple Express appears to be an imaginary strain of marijuana invented for the movie, its name is no stranger than many of the real ones. Pot has seemingly endless nicknames, partly because there are so many different varieties of it. Some of the more unusual ones? Uncle Fester, Skunk, Maui Wowie, Square Mackerel, Belyando Spruce and Purple Urkel, to name a few. For more offbeat marijuana nicknames, visit the Pot or Not quiz page at Slang City.

*Marijuana is legal in some US states when it is judged to be a medical necessity (e.g., as an anti-nausea drug or to treat glaucoma), but these state laws often conflict with federal laws.

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: The Vibe History of Hip Hop. This comprehensive guide gives a tour of the music, dance and fashions of hip hop from its very beginnings. A great resource and a fun read!