Mapping Stoner Slang

Stoner Linguistics

As an avid marijuana enthusiast I’ve become very interested in exploring stoner culture. What are our symbols, history and ideas? Most interesting to me might be the linguistics. How has the language been influenced by issues of legality and social pressures to hide our actions? How do cannabis users talk to each other? This is my first attempt to try and build a concrete understanding of stoner language.

I’ll smoke you up/out/down

There’s this really fascinating topic of discussion that comes up every-time I smoke with a new group of people, especially if they’re from another state. Any smoker can notice every network of friends has their own lingo around marijuana use. It’s a bonding experience for groups to exchange their preferred linguistics. The debate generally centers around the use of phrases like “wanna smoke up?”, “I’ll smoke you out” and “let’s smoke down”. These are the sort of phrases we use to invite someone to share in a joint or a bowl.
What I find so appealing about this area of study is that language is a thing that organically evolves under the incentives and pressures of its environment. I’m intrigued to find some way of mapping or studying this evolution keeping an eye out for trends and groupings. Are these differences purely regional? Maybe state by state? Are the differences radically divided even in smaller segments of the population?

The most popular lingo

To try and satisfy my curiosity I’ve collected some data. Given my limited resources I concluded polling my friends and social media connections was the way to go. I made several posts online attempting to collect an accurate representation of how the language varies. My sample size was roughly 40 participants, most giving more than one answer for the most popular phrases used. I filtered out some weaker data points and graphed it all in figure 1.

stoners

The first thing that really caught my attention was the frequency of “smoke out”. This phrase is generally used to invite someone to smoke but often has an under assumption that not all parties have to share their grass. For example I might say “buy me lunch and i’ll smoke you out”, expressing that I am offering my marijuana in exchange for something while the other party doesn’t need to contribute to the bowl. I’m also surprised by the dominance of smoke up over smoke down. In my personal experience smoke down has been more popular among my friends in Colorado.

The regional analysis

The next logical step for my quest is to look at how the polling data is spread out regionally. After collecting all my responses I went through and added the state the participant currently lives in and/or has smoked frequently in. I did my best to track down the state where they developed their lingo giving me the most accurate representation of the region they learned the language from. Below is the map, figure 2, that resulted from this study. Due to my sample size I had insufficient data for many states and had to leave them blank. If the data permitted I added the second most popular phrase below the first

stoner-usa-map-png.

As my experience suggested “smoke down” was extremely popular in Colorado, the state with the most data due to my network. “Smoke down” appears to be the only popular phrase that doesn’t show up in the south, a possible trend that could be studied further. We also see the universality of “smoke out”, showing up as the most popular in 10 out of the 17 states and second most popular in Missouri.

What can we learn?

Interestingly enough there was very few groupings and trends I was able to pinpoint. It seems it a world where communication is not limited by borders our slang leaks into other areas and gets adopted with ease like a flowing river not to be stopped by arbitrary borders.
I’m surprised by the variety of phrases polled but also the consistency in major phrases showing up all over all the nation. “Smoke out” is the most common phrase. 37.5% of poll-ers listed it as their most used and it shows up in almost all the states where data was collected.

Smoke around and other phrases

I’ll never forget the time I was smoking with a new friend from Maryland. He said “smoke up” and it completely threw my crew for a loop as we had only heard “smoke out” and “smoke down”. As the debate and discussion died down we decided to coin “smoke around” as a joke to confuse future newcomers to the state. This article wouldn’t be complete without a section sharing some of the humorous and unique answers I got while collecting my data. My friend Sam from Denver mentioned he says, “Ravioli ravioli wanna smoke a bowlioni?”, a phrase I literally laughed out loud when I read. A few other friends mentioned their favorite phrases like, “schmerk a berw”, which showed up in both Colorado and Florida. “Safety meeting” was polled a few times as well though excluded from the study. Anyone who has experience smoking in the service industry is likely familiar with that phrase, it’s a stealthier way to suggest smoking to your co-workers.

So much more to study

This was one of the most interesting things I’ve written about in a while and I look forward to expanding my sample size. If you wanna share your preferred slang feel free to shoot me an email gabrieljmitchell@gmail.com or reach out on Facebook.
Stoner culture is very complex. Lighter norms, price variation and much more! There’s a lot to study and i’m just scratching the surface. Join me on my quest as I quantify, map and explore the spontaneous order of marijuana culture. Definitely more to come.

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Grammar Nazis Don’t Understand Language

There’s this position some people take called Linguistic Prescription or grammar Prescriptivism. It’s the philosophical notion that some uses of language are wrong are inherently worse than other variations. The grammar nazi embodies this philosophy. They point out errors in the communication they encounter, often in a rude and elitist manner. Ironically the idea of objective rules in language is extremely weak when put to the test.

Can grammar be wrong? Are there rules for communication that exist objectively absent of circumstances? When first posed with these questions most people might say yes. Schooling environments tend to give the limited perspective of prescriptivism. Misuse of language or breaking the rules is literally punished with low marks. We’re trained from a young age to see abuses of language and call them out. However consider the way language grows and evolves. There was once a time where show was spelled like shew and doubt was spelled like dout. Slang is being invented and remixed almost everyday. Literally literally means figuratively for example.

Language is spontaneous order

It’s a complete misunderstanding of the nature of communication to give into strict grammar rules. Language is what economics call spontaneous order. It’s a collection of norms not developed by some hierarchy but out the day to day incentives and uses. It’s not about how I speak in line with the true rules of language but instead how I do I communicate to meet my needs for this moment. We can imagine a scenario where there is a conflict in grammar assumptions. Say a posh academic attempting to speak with a low income street nomad. There is certainly barriers and they will have to find common ground but after the interaction should the nomad adopt the rules of his conversation partner. Should he return to his community of gypsies unable to communicate with them? Of-course not! We should embrace the language rules that convenient for task at hand. Flowing in and out of rules in order to more effective communicate.
This is not a unique position it seems the more serious a studier of linguistics is the more likely they are to reject objective rules. The webster dictionary and all of it’s language nerds in charge are well aware that their job is not to determine rules but to record how we use words in normal life. In 2015 the Oxford dictionary had “emoji” as it’s word of the year. A word that too many isn’t a formal part of the english language.

The grammar nazi will do good to study linguistics in a more serious sense. As you dive deeper into language you see it as an art not a science. Next time you think about correcting someone for misspelling “you’re” maybe consider the fact that you understood what they were saying already. If you understand the message could it really have been wrong?

Duolingo makes learning a language fun

Duolingo is awesome. I’m almost done with my first week and I’m totally hooked.

I took two years of German in highschool and I’ve been eager to get back on it. Learning a new language is a perfect way to sharpen my brain and give me insight into a whole new culture.

If you’re thinking about developing a fresh skill I’d highly recommend giving the Duolingo app a shot. The creators have really perfected the gamification of learning. Every time you complete a task you get a very pleasant ring noise almost like you’re scoring points in a Mario game or something. There’s so much simple yet satisfying positive reinforcement. It’s just awesome how much fun learning can be if educators use creative solutions instead of the bland status quo.

Wanna learn a language? Go download Duolingo! You’ll only need to dedicate a few minutes a day and you’ll be on your way to being a more kick ass version of yourself.

You can follow my username gabethedrone and compete with me.

https://www.duolingo.com/gabethedrone