A weed by any other name would smell as sweet

By: David Pratt

You would think in the victory lap of a populist movement focusing on civil liberty, freedom of choice and a plant that tends to unwind the uptight that you wouldn’t have to stress over busybody, school-hall-monitor types waiting to wash your mouth out with soap as soon as you call Shiva’s favorite flower something other than “cannabis.”

But they are out there taking notes and keeping score, the persnickety people quick to castigate and correct as soon as you utter the words “pot, weed, bud, reefer,” or sling other similar slang terms to describe the annual, dioecious, herb we all know and love so well.

And why not? After all, it is called cannabis, a name with a long etymology: from the Greek κάνναβις (kánnabis), via Latin cannabis, originally a Scythian or Thracian word loaned into Persian as kanab. Part of the legalization movement involves educating about cannabis and we should have our facts and terminology correct. If we want to be taken seriously we probably shouldn’t go around saying things like, “Free the weed, dude.”

But some activists carry this educatin’ to the same kind of rigid dogmatism that made us want to skip class and go smoke a bone in the first place.

Their position is that the rich and colorful terminology for cannabis is derogatory. That these slang epithets were coined in sneering disdain to degrade the devil’s weed and its insane victim; used by the establishment to vilify cannabis and to marginalize and criminalize racial minorities and other undesirables.

They suggest that tossing these verbal nuggets around with such stoned disregard makes us complicit with prohibition, or at least undermines the cause with Cheech & Chong nonsense.

Except Cheech & Chong aren’t nonsense and the language police are wrong in rejecting the creative lexicon that has grown throughout history. These are pet names, coined or appropriated by lovers of the sweet leaf.

Even the dreaded “marijuana” was a word originally used by Mexican cannabis connoisseurs.

Anslinger stole it and used it to obscure that he was trying to ban hemp; to create the idea of a “new” drug menace; and to connect that menace to minorities and immigrants. But we stole it back with pride a long time ago. It is part of our culture and we are free to express it.

So call it weed, reefer, bud, bhang, pot, green, bunk, buddha, shake, skunk, skank, cheeba, ganja, herb, smoke, trees, kush, chronic, blunt, thai, tea, Alice B. Toklas, dank, hooch, hemp, doobie, leaf, ganja, Mary Jane, jive, kief, kif, kiff, killer, kind, grass, rasta, sinsemilia, cannabis and even marijuana if you want to.

Just don’t call it dope. I hate dope.