‘Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?’ By Luc Sante • High Times


Renowned writer and critic Luc Sante turns 66 on May 25. Read his delirious exploration of a word below, originally published in the November/December, 2004 edition of High Times.

You have to keep your eye on the past. Not only is it not dead yet, but it can sometimes jump up and bite you on the ankle. Not long ago, while reading the 1921 memoirs of James L. Ford, a New York theater critic and man-about-town, I ran across the following:

“Many years ago, when prairie schooners were the means of transit across the continent, there hung from the axle-tree a bucket of black wagon grease containing what was called a daub stick with which the lubricant was applied. The earliest American frequenters of the Chinese joints in San Francisco were men who had crossed from the east in these prairie schooners and as the word ‘daub’ had become corrupted into ‘dope,’ the opium paste which looked exactly like the axle-grease, acquired its name by a quite natural…


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