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Oh Wise and Benevolent Matt:

The other day my friend and I were pondering life's little mysteries, and the word "Bogart" came up. What is the origin of this word? Is it in reference to Humphrey Bogart?

-- Abby in Santee

Yes, Bogart the man is the inspiration for Bogart the accusation. And you'd better make that wise, benevolent, and reeeeeely old Matthew Alice. Are there people around too young to remember "Bogart"? Well, I guess it's the duty of the elders to pass along ancient wisdom to the next generation, so pull up a chair, Abby. The word has two meanings; we'll take them chronologically.

Bogey's most consistent screen persona? Tough guy. So the first Bogart (in print, at least), dating from the early '50s, means to intimidate someone or get pushy or to bash somebody in the face. You could also Bogart your way into a crowded room or Bogart a basketball opponent by putting heavy moves on him. Sometime in the late '80s, rapper Ice-T offered, "I don't ask. The Ice just Bogarts." The term will certainly live on in the aggressive '90s.

The second, better-known meaning comes from Bogey's most famous prop: the cigarette perpetually hanging from his lips. "Don't Bogart that joint" (don't hog it; pass it on, man) is about the only etiquette rule to come out of the '60s. Easy Rider made the line famous in 1969; but, as with the first meaning, it existed in casual speech before then. Too poor to afford music specifically written for the film, Dennis Hopper incorporated some of his favorites from the pop charts. To cap the scene in which Peter Fonda gives a preppy Jack Nicholson his first joint, Hopper chose a brief snip of the Fraternity of Man's 1968 lament "Don't Bogart that Joint" (actually, "Don't Bogart Me"), written by band members Elliott Ingber and Larry Wagner. The very strange, two-album, one-hit FoM had mutated out of the Mothers of Invention and later staffed Little Feat. Strange bedfellows.

And now that you know about Bogart, Abby, let me tell you the fable of Country Joe and his magical Fish and the monstrous Moby Grape...

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