Who Do You Think Created the Term Yippie?
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I really don’t like to boast, but in my lifetime, on half a dozen occasions, I have actually added words and phrases to the language. It’s something I always wanted to do. What a thrill it must have been Dr. Harold Cerumen who decided that cleaning out earwax should be known as “cerumen disimpaction.” And veterinarian Alice Neuticle who coined the word “neuticles”—cosmetic testicles for a dog that’s been neutered.
So I’m not asking for credit. Or cash. Since money had been called “dough” and then morphed into “bread,” so I figured that “toast” would be the next logical step in that particular linguistic evolution, but my campaign itself became toast, in the sense that “toast” now means history.
Also, I was intrigued by the process of having a body part named after oneself. How proud Casper Bartholin’s parents must have been to have a son who christened the source of female lubrication that takes the friction out of intercourse as “Bartholin’s glands.” But my idea of calling those two vertical lines between your nose and your mouth “Krassner’s crease” just never became popular.
Here, then, for better or worse, are my contributions to American culture that did manage to catch on, or at least may be on their way.
1. In 1958, pornography was gradually becoming legal, but at that stage of the game, the Supreme Court was unwilling to allow 1st Amendment protection of “hard-core” porn—as opposed, I assumed, to the term I invented, “soft-core porn,” which was obviously more respectable, though it seemed kind of sneaky, pretending to be squeaky clean. So I decided to satirize the concept with a new feature in The Realist: “Soft-Core Porn of the Month.”
For example, phallic symbolism in newspapers and magazines was a key ingredient of soft-core porn. Sample: a close-up of a stick shift in a Volkswagen ad was accompanied by the question, “Does the stick shift your wife?” Soft-core porn now refers to limited sexuality, as seen in network TV dramas and hotel-room movies that feature jiggling breasts and buttocks but no genitalia. The way to recognize soft-core porn is that it gives men a soft-on.
2. On the afternoon of December 31, 1967, several activist friends were gathered at Abbie and Anita Hoffman's Lower East Side apartment, smoking Colombian marijuana and planning a counter-convention for the Democratic Party’s event the following summer in Chicago. Our fantasy was to counter their convention of death with our festival of life. While the Democrats would present politicians giving speeches at the convention center, we would present rock bands playing in the park. There would be booths with information about drugs and alternatives to the draft. Our mere presence would be our statement.
We needed a name, so that reporters could have a who for their journalistic who-what-when-where-and-why lead paragraphs. I felt a brainstorm coming on and went to the bedroom so that I could concentrate. Our working title was the International Youth Festival. But the initials IYF were a meaningless acronym. I paced back and forth, juggling titles to see if I could come up with words whose initials would make a good acronym. I tried Youth International Festival. YIF. Sounded like KIF. Kids International Festival? Nope, too contrived. Back to YIF. But what could make YIP? Now that would be ideal because then the word Yippie could be derived organically.
Of course, “Yippie” was already a traditional shout of spontaneous joy, but we could be the Yippies! It had exactly the right attitude. Yippies was the most appropriate name to signify the radicalization of hippies. What a perfect media myth that would be—the Yippies! And then, working backward, it hit me. Youth International Party! It was a natural. Youth: This was essentially a movement of young people involved in a generational struggle. International: It was happening all over the globe, from Mexico to France, from Germany to Japan. And Party: In both senses of the word. We would be a party and we would have a party.