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Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia…

Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s

by John Bassett McCleary

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Nothing Mind Blowing at first glance.

It covers everything from the Age of Aquarius to Zen, and a whole lot more besides!
This is perhaps my main criticism. The Hippie Dictionary doesn't really know where to stop. It is way too flabby.

Airhead, Angel Dust, and terms like 'a thing for' although still widely used today do have their roots in the Head culture itself.
But, Activist, Addiction and Anarchist are simply common words which have as much relevance to the 60s and 70s as they did a hundred years before.
There are also entries for A Hard Day's Night (1964 Beatles movie), Ali, Muhammad (World heavyweight boxer), and Allah (God in Islam).
And that's just the A's!

What John Bassett McCleary has done is to fish with a trawler net rather than selectively with a rod and line, and for that I think the book has been watered down a lot, which is a shame.

I would have been happier with a more concise pocket book just containing slang words from the period like Groovy, Heavy, Far Out, and Deep. And, the many street names for drugs of the time like: Bogart, Catnip, Roach, Hookah, Mary Jane (marijuana) etc.

Another sticking point for me was range creep. I appreciate that one era does not always end just as another begins, but entries for Break Dancing, and Boogaloo seem very out of context in a book dedicated to the 'Hippie culture'. Just another example of the flabby nature of this book.

While we are on the subject, under the entry:
"Boom Box: a large portable radio or tape player. The boom represents the loud sound it makes as some teenager carries it through your neighbourhood. A.k.a. Ghetto blaster or ghetto box."
In an attempt to avoid offending his readers, I feel the author is ignoring (possibly trying to forget) the institutional racist language of the times. But as far as most people of the time were concerned these devices were more often referred to, with no hatred or racism, as a 'wogbox'. Many parents casually went shopping at Dixons or Radio Shack asking to see a 'Wogbox' for their children, believing it to be some form of trademark. I don't recall hearing the word 'Boombox' till the mid nineties.
I'm not condoning it, but that's the true social history. You can't omit the uncomfortable bits in writing a historical document just because they displease you. Or rather I don't think you should.

Don't get me wrong, I Think this book is *okay and would probably have bought it anyway. But if it had been sold as an encyclopædia rather than a dictionary I would have had a clearer idea of what to expect.

The back pages of the book are populated with lists of human rights and free-speech movement groups, underground magazines (although Frendz, International Times, and even Oz are all absent from the list!), popular recreational drugs, and the history of computing (up to the Apple II) to name a few.

This may just be a British thing but an entry for the English actor, comedian, novelist and playwright Nigel Planer would not have been out if place in this book. Perhaps not in the main dictionary, but at the back in a list of Fictional Hippies in popular culture, along with Mr. Van Driessen - Beavis & Butt-Head's High School teacher.
Nigel George Planer (born 22 February 1953) is best known for his role as Neil the Hippie in the early 80s cult BBC comedy The Young Ones. He also recorded a chart topping cover single of 'Hole in my shoe' and the spoof Neil's Heavy Concept Album.

*I've just checked and there is no entry for the word okay or okey, O.K., okeydoke, or A-OK! Once again, it may just be a British association that with the influx of American culture at the time we all assumed 'okay' to be a counterculture word (previously everyone here used 'alright'.) otherwise this seems like a huge omission, much like Edmund Blackadder, in the episode Ink and Incapability - for leaving out the word Aardvark while rewriting Dr. Johnson's dictionary. ;o ( )
1 vote Sylak | Aug 28, 2015 |
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In memory of my mother, Pauline Meeks McCleary, and my mother-in-law, Frances Wheeler wjeffers, two bohemian spirits.
"I learned how to spell respect from Aretha Franklin and encyclopedia from Mickey Mouse."
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This is the Revised and Expanded Edition. Do not combine with the original.
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