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Where All Those Marijuana Slang Terms Came From

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Because of its illegal standing over the past 80 years, the controversial cannabis plant has taken on a series of names. But where did these pot jargon terms come from?


As many will attest, cannabis stokes the imagination. It generates revelations and epiphanies. We see things differently. On sailing ships, the act of reefing a cruise reduces the sail’s area by folding or rolling one corner of the board in on itself; a “reefer” is the soldier who rolls it. Apparently, a reefed cruise resembles a joint. But there’s also justification that the Spanish jargon word grifo had some change on the arise of the word “reefer.” Grifo has a few opposite meanings including “curly-haired,” “tap” and “spigot.” It’s unclear, but in the 1920s, somehow it gained recognition as a derogative term for a cannabis user and became a common verb to report inebriation.



It’s the many common term for cannabis—and flattering much everybody believes it means “maryjane” in Spanish, with roots in Old Mexico. But not so fast. Certainly it was renouned jargon used by Mexican immigrants at the commencement of the 20th century, but many etymologists trust the origins of “marijuana” open from Chinses: matriarch ren hua means “hemp seed flower.” There’s also conjecture that the word is subsequent from Hebrew and Arabic languages; marjoram, the savoury spice, could be associated to the word, as good as “mejorana,” a Spanish word for marjoram. History suggests that anti-cannabis politicians and bureaucrats latched on to “marijuana,” in sequence to demonize the plant with secular overtones, claiming that Mexicans and blacks would be preying on white women in a marijuana-induced frenzy. To that end, cannabis was criminalized in 1937 around the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

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Although it’s a widely used term for cannabis, many activists and advocates dislike the word “pot” since it connotes a stoner sensibility. To be sure, you’ll frequency hear Tommy Chong impute to cannabis as anything else! But how did pot come to be famous as “pot?” Its etymological roots aren’t tough to trace. Potación de guaya, a Spanish term, is a booze or brandy in which cannabis leaves or buds have been steeped. Literally, it means “drink of grief.” The mixture predates cannabis prohibition, giving faith to the fact that the plant has been used traditionally as medicine for eons. Over the years, its name engaged to “potiguaya.” Then in the 1930s, it was condensed to “pot,” serve fueling the racializing of cannabis use.


Not widely used any longer as a term for cannabis, essentially since it’s also a common term for heroin. “Dope,” in fact, has been ordinarily used to report drugs en masse. Illegal drugs like meth, opium, cocaine, cannabis and heroin have all been placed under the “dope” umbrella. The word springs from the Dutch word doop, which means a thick sauce. It wasn’t too distant a jump to call a thickheaded particular a doop. It gained recognition as a drug-oriented term in the late 1800s, a word to report the act of smoking a semi-liquid drug preparation.


Ask many people and they’ll tell you “ganja” is the Jamaican word for cannabis. (Um, Jamaican isn’t a language.) Without a doubt, ganja is inextricably trustworthy to Jamaica, but the word’s roots are from the Hindi term for cannabis—ganjha. But how did the term transport to Jamaica? In 1833, Britain outlawed labour but it still indispensable laborers for its large plantations in the Caribbean. The British Empire shipped 40,000 indentured laborers from India to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917. As Indian and Jamaican cultures merged, “ganja” became the common term for the cannabis that the margin workers smoked. Today, smoking ganja is a executive member of the Rastafarian religion.

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During the 1960s and 1970s, the term “grass” was in vogue. It seems old-fashioned now, a word that hearkens back to the days of hippies and flower power. Widespread use of the term was no doubt fueled by its appearance. Most of the cannabis accessible then was immature and of obtuse quality, mostly imitative lawn clippings. But it’s critical to know that cannabis is mentioned in the Hindu dedicated text Atharvaveda(Science of Charms) as “sacred grass,” one of the 5 dedicated plants of India. Sacred weed is used both medicinally and ritually as an charity to Shiva.


Unfortunately, this innocent-sounding word carries some critical baggage. Chiva is Spanish jargon for heroin. Literally it can meant “beard’ or a “young womanlike goat.” But on the streets of the middle city, “cheeba” became the name for black connect heroin. Perhaps, “cheeba” gained recognition as cannabis jargon as growers upped the peculiarity of their product and buds became hang and gooier.


This one’s a puzzler, because mota in Spanish means a tiny bit or a pinch of dust. Spaniards in the 18thcentury referred to the foam excess left behind from making linen as “mota.” How mota became a widely used term for cannabis by the late 1800s is a mystery. Regardless, a mota smoker can be called a “moto” or “motorolo.”

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In the West Side Story song “Gee, Officer Krupke,” the Sharks, one of the rival street gangs, sing: “My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me, my grandpa is a commie, my grandma pushes tea, my sister wears a mustache, my hermit wears a dress… integrity friendly that’s because I’m a mess!” You substantially accepted all in the lyrics but “my grandma pushes tea.” “Pushing tea” is jargon for pot dealing. Tea, of course, is the pot itself. Why “tea?” Once again, cannabis has prolonged used for poultices and medicinal beverages in folk medicine. The plant is steeped in prohibited water, just like tea—ergo this primitive term, which was coined in the 1930s.


Just one some-more false term for the cannabis plant spawned by generations who didn’t know its benefits. “Weed” is tangible as a furious plant flourishing where it is not wanted and in foe with cultivated plants. How could a term for cannabis be so off the mark? Cannabis is really “wanted” and if it’s “in foe with cultivated plants,” it’s winning hands down, now the many profitable cash crop in complicated America.


Malcolm MacKinnon is a contributing author at The Fresh Toast.


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