Schenley Whiskey - Relaxation and the history of saying "man".

Schenley whiskey is "the best-tasting whiskey in ages", apparently. Like this kid would know. How old is he? Twenty-three? Maybe it should say "the best-tasting whiskey in semesters!"
So, Schenley whiskey. Never heard of them. That's okay, because they've been out of business for a few decades, although there are some interesting ways in which the name lingers in our culture, if you care to read the stubby Wikipedia page about them.

The first thing that caught my attention is the slang use of "man". It's standard stuff now, but in 1954, this was the newest and hippest way to talk. Schenley was really trying to be "with it".

See? I looked it up in my copy of Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. It's one of those weird kind of e-books that weighs a few pounds and has no copy protection. Partridge says:

"man. A coll.: 'an exclamatory form of address in common use all over South Africa, employed often enough quite irrespective of either the age or the sex of the person addressed. ... The beatniks adopted the vocative man... ex jazzmen's usage, itself taken from the very numerous Negro jazzmen.'"

The beatniks were just hitting their freaky stride in '54, so apparently by then, the lingo was already being used by advertisers to sell stuff to youth culture, thereby sounding the death knell of anything cool, as always. In short order, "man" would simply be assumed into the vernacular of Western civilization. It still technically qualifies as slang I guess, but you're not going to weird out your grandma by using the word as such. Some small percentage of fads stick to the wall and stay forever. "Man" is one of them. "Cool" is another, although that word has been overused to the point of near meaninglessness.

So what's a slang word that came and went, only to be dragged out of the closet on special ironic occasions? That's easy. "Groovy", "hep", and "gag me with a spoon" are all slang that wore out their welcome. There have got to be loads more of those. That would be a decent drinking game, if you're into those... and in a sorority. Take turns going through the alphabet naming obsolete slang words. A person with no contribution takes a drink. It'd take hours to get drunk playing that game, there are so many lame slang words.
...something happens and I'm no longer relevant...
The guy in the picture is definitely not a beatnik. He  looks kind of smarmy and pleased with himself, which is not a very beat-y way to look. Beatniks are supposed to look either aloof or high. This guy just looks like a douche.

Whiskey guy is wearing his shirt in that Tears For Fears kind of way where you button your shirt all the way up to the collar without a tie. That always looked dumb to me. If you're not wearing a tie, just leave the top button undone, Waldo. So what's he reading? An illustrated history of hard liquor? Maybe that's how he knows Schenley is the best-tasting whiskey in ages.

"How to relax". Jeez, such a thick book! Those pages had better be blank, or maybe pictures of trees. If you're so wound up you need to research a way to settle down, you might as well resort to chemical means of relaxatio - oh, right, whiskey. How stupid of me. He's pointing right at it, in that weird hourglass thing. The message is clear. Schenley whiskey will make time simply disappear, just like it did for Tears For fears. I blame the way he buttoned his shirt for people not liking the band any more, not the whiskey.

Click for big.


Steve Miller said...

Beatnik? No, hip advertising guy advertising to himself... You know these art directors and copywriters, man!

Looks like Schenley was to whiskey as Franzia is to wine: http://www.bourbonenthusiast.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1620 Some surprising items in there... including why Lawrenceburg IN used to smell better than it does today.

But if it ain't barley and peat-filtered bog water, you can drink it, OK?

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Well I'll be. The efforts of the research & Googling team didn't unearth this little timeline. jeez, they go back a long ways!

Thanks for the info, Steve!


Steve Miller said...

Oh, it was a fun day for research! Dare I make it a fun night for research?

Elaine said...

Hi Phil. Two mentions of South Africa in a week and they seem to add up to the image of us driving round in casspirs saying to eachother, "Man, this is cool". Ha ha. Chatted to husband about use of the word "Man". We had always associated it with an American hippy 70's kinda vibe. We do say things like 'No way man' and 'Cool man' so looks like 'man' migrated to the end of the sentence. - Elaine

Jim D. said...

That lipstick . . .

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

If I had a casspir, I would absolutely declare it to be cool, man... until I had to stop for gas.

I didn't notice the guy's lipstick. Man, like, he's real gone, man!

Thanks for reading, everybody!

Ypek said...

Shenley-man looks like the father/brother of Kevin Bacon.

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