Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wonderings and Pre-Google Googlings (Wherein I wonder about word issues Google can't help me with, then hack into a source that can)

I heard a new old expression the other day. The teacher of the economics class I'm watching via online video said that if you can identify an undervalued stock, you can get rich "in a cocaine heartbeat."

Now quick: Guess whether the instructor is in his late-30s, his early-50s, or his mid-60s.

That's right, late-thirtysomethings don't speak of cocaine. They're all "Heroin this and Kurt Cobain that." Mid-60s types, on the other hand, are all "Reefer this and Timothy Leary that."

This level of cocaine consciousness can only come from someone who spent some formative social years in the 1980s -- a time when certain types wore on chains around their necks things called "coke spoons." A time when you'd occasionally run across a man who kept one pinky nail much longer than all his other fingernails. A time when twenty- and thirtysomethings were all "nose candy this and Crockett and Tubbs that."

So, wondering how this cultural emphasis was reflected in the language, I searched the Los Angeles Times archives for the word "cocaine" over two different time spans.

Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2007 = 399 hits
Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 1986 = 1, 724 hits

I rest my superfreaking, white-loafer-wearing, party like it's 1999 case.

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