Friday, July 18, 2008


I mentioned in a recent post (on my other, newer blog) that I usually upgrade my dictionary about every 10 years. But this morning when I received my Merriman–Webster Word-of-the-Day word in my inbox, it made me consider getting a new one right away. The word in question is “bogart.” Here’s what they had to say:

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, and The African Queen. 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. It is believed 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.

So, I went to my own Webster’s and found only an entry for Humphrey, and nothing about cigarettes, joints or otherwise. But my dictionary is a 2001 edition, so maybe “bogart, bogarting” etc. has been out there officially for a while and I just don't know it. After all, the Baby Boomers have been old enough to be Presidents, CEOs, Grand Pooh-Bahs in all walks of life for quite some time, so it’s natural to assume that some Boomers found their way onto panels of judges who give thumbs up or down on new words that come before them, hoping, panting, dying to get into the dictionary and make a name for themselves. I can see it now, tryouts in every major city, new words performing, trying their best to impress Simon, flirt with Paula, appeal to the home viewers… Well, however it’s done, “bogart” has made the leap to the big time. And I need to head over to Chapters for a new edition.

Meanwhile, let’s hear from the song that started it all, “Don’t Bogart Me” by the Fraternity of Man.

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