Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Word of the day: bogart

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is the verb bogart :

1 : bully, intimidate
2 : to use or consume without sharing
I recall bogart also serving as a noun back in my high-school days, as in “Don’t be a bogart.” That is, don’t be someone who bogarts: don’t hog the ball; let someone else have a chance. A basketball was about the only thing anyone in my crowd would have been bogarting, honest.

I’m writing about bogart not to reminisce but to question M-W’s explanation of the word’s origin:
The legendary film actor Humphrey Bogart was known for playing a range of tough characters in a series of films throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including The Maltese Falcon , Casablanca , The African Queen , and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre . The men he portrayed often possessed a cool, hardened exterior that occasionally let forth a suggestion of romantic or idealistic sentimentality. Bogart also had a unique method of smoking cigarettes in these pictures — letting the butt dangle from his mouth without removing it until it was almost entirely consumed. Some believe that this habit inspired the current meaning of bogart , which was once limited to the phrase “Don’t bogart that joint [marijuana cigarette],” as popularized by a song on the soundtrack to the film Easy Rider , among other things. Today bogart can be applied to hogging almost anything.
Did Bogart let a cigarette dangle from his lips now and then? Of course. Who didn’t? But “a unique method of smoking” that carried over from film to film, with cigarettes dangling until they’re nearly done? That’s nonsense.

And who in their right mind would smoke a joint by letting it dangle from the mouth? I would suggest that the verb bogart has more to do with Bogart’s intensity when smoking, as in this scene from Casablanca .


11:50 a.m.: As I just discovered (to my surprise and delight), bogart appears in the Oxford English Dictionary . The OED has the right idea: “with allusion to Bogart’s frequent on-screen smoking, especially to the long drags he took on cigarettes.” It’s the smoker’s intensity, not the placement of the cigarette, that better explains bogart .

A related post
Two-word utterances of my adolescence

comments: 11

The Crow said...

Among those I hung out with (but I didn't inhale :}**), the oft used expression was "Don't bogart that joint, man," when someone held it between his lips too long before passing it on to the next one.

(** Not intentionally, anyway.)

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, exactly. But that’s a matter of someone inhaling more than their fair share, no? Not just letting a joint sit there.

Chris said...

Though it's presumably unrelated, a "boggart" with two "t"s is a malevolent spirit in British folklore. (The same root is probably behind Shakespeare's "puck" and Flann O'Brian's "pooka").

Michael Leddy said...

That word’s new to me — thanks. It explains the “bogeyman” too.

The Crow said...

Oh, that's what they meant? It didn't appear they were drawing on the joint, but letting it hang from their lips, in the manner of Humphrey Bogart, which is where I figured the expression came from. At the time, I was shocked to think Bogie was a user. I knew about Bob Mitchum and others in his crowd; just thought Bogart was too square.

Ah, the things we learn when we're young and away from parental influence! :)

Michael Leddy said...

I have no idea whether Bogie tried pot. I think the word bogart is all about his cigarette smoking.

My experience with pot was very limited, but I can’t say that I ever saw anyone let a joint just sit there in the mouth. Maybe because no one was being a bogart? :) But whatever is involved in bogarting a joint, Bogart wasn’t known for some unique way of smoking that involved leaving the cigarette in the mouth. That’s my quarrel with the Merriam-Webster explanation.

The Oxford English Dictionary gets it right, I’d say (I’m surprised to find the word there): “with allusion to Bogart’s frequent on-screen smoking, especially to the long drags he took on cigarettes.”

The Crow said...

Aha! I take OED's explanation, and it makes sense with relation to that expression I heard, far more so that the occasional reprimand to those who did let the joint hang instead of passing it along.

Thanks, Prof! I am always enlightened when I come here - and entertained.

Michael Leddy said...

Entertained? Me too! Believe me, I had no idea that this day would turn out to contain the word bogart . :)

Richard Abbott said...

Over here in the UK I confess to never having heard the word before. Like others, I'm surprised to hear it's in the OED at all but I guess there's all kinds of stuff in there that is not in regular use.

Anonymous said...

"bogart" in pop culture, Beavis + Butthead S3 --

Michael Leddy said...

@Richard: When it comes to American slang, the OED sometimes (or often?) catches things that American dictionaries miss.

@ Anonymous: Thanks!