Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Word Nerd Friday: Bogart

The other night at dinner a word popped up into my head, a word I haven’t used in a while I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know why I thought of it, but there it was. The word was Bogart, as in Humphrey Bogart, legendary star of movies like The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and at least one Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Of course, it’s also known as a verb, and in this usage it means to hog something, keep something for oneself. The most famous application of the verb “Bogart” was in the 1968 song, “Don’t Bogart Me” (typically cited as “Don’t Bogart That Joint”) by an obscure band called Fraternity of Man.

Whether the phrase preceded the song or the songwriter coined it himself is unknown. In all likelihood, he simply used a phrase he had heard and wrote a song about it. Where did it come from? Presumably it came from the fact that Humphrey Bogart smoked in his movies–a lot. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of Bogart’s films, but I have the image in my head of him with a cigarette either hanging off his lip or pinched, joint-style, between his thumb and first two fingers (or both):

So the phrase as applied to pot smoking seemed to come from there. But it soon had many other uses. Back in high school, we adopted the word and applied it quite liberally to everything. If you spread out on the couch so no one else could sit on it, you were Bogarting the couch. When we were limber enough to play hacky sack (does anyone do that anymore?) if someone kept the sack to themselves, going from foot to foot to knee to foot to knee, etc., they were Bogarting the sack and we’d call them something like “Sackus Bogartus”–we were big on that sort of pseudo-Romanizing. If you kept the bag of chips for yourself you were Bogarting the chips.You get the idea.

One other interesting use of the phrase I found. Apparently “Bogart” was a word used in prisons in the mid-60s to describe someone who acted tough or bullied other inmates into getting things. That use certainly makes sense, as Bogart portrayed a lot of tough guys.

And that’s it for me. Have a nice weekend, all.

6 Responses

  1. Who knew? One of my sons and his wife are fans of Humphrey Bogart and named one of their dogs Bogart. I have a tendency to mistake and call the dog Boggart.

  2. I thought the verb usage had only been around for the last 10 yrs or so. I'm really behind the times. It's one of the few slang terms that really bugs me. Classic actors like Bogey should be above having their name used to mean thief or bully. On the other hand, it reminds me of a Star Trek: TNG episode where one alien race can only communicate by saying the name and event-location of legendary heroes. That was a cool idea. 😉

  3. Back in Bogart's day, EVERYONE smoked in the movies. Of course, I think a lot more people smoked, period, so it was kind of accepted.

    I've heard the term bogart, though. Probably from the movies. Or television. Then again, I don't get out much, so where else am I gonna hear it? Haha! 🙂

  4. -Donna–a Harry Potter fan is likely to see 'Boggart' first!
    -Lexa–that would be a strange way to communicate! I understand your unhappiness with the term; sadly (or not), we can not control the language and how it changes.
    -Stacy–they sure did! What's really funny for me is watching some older TV shows where you see people smoking in restaurants of movie theaters or something.
    -Nick–Glad I could enlighten you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for Updates

For announcements, alerts and special offers, subscribe to our emails.  Please note, you will have to confirm your subscription through an email to the address you provide.

Follow Jeff O'Handley

Jeff O'Handley ©2024 - All Rights Reserved.