Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Before Hippies There Were Beatniks?

This ill-informed article from the Tuscon Citizen - Before Hippies There Were Beatniks - won't fool regular readers of The Daily Beat, but casual visitors might stumble upon it and not realize that the article is way off base: it neglects to point out that the term "beatnik" was a perjorative term, coined by Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle. The suffix -nik was an intentional reference to Russia (not so popular in the U.S. at the time - it was six months after Sputnik) to cast the beat generation writers as un-American.

Allen Ginsberg wrote to the New York Times to deplore "the foul word beatnik," commenting, "If beatniks and not illuminated Beat poets overrun this country, they will have been created not by Kerouac but by industries of mass communication which continue to brainwash man" (Source: Wikipedia).

Click here to read my lengthier treatise on the term from December 23, 2008.

Happy reading.

1 comment:

Jonny Ross said...

good of you to draw attention to the more insidious origins of the term. it's so neatly fallen into the popular lexicon that most, even fans of beat writers, etc., don't for a second consider the derogatory intent with which it was originally deployed. on facebook, for example, you'll see tribute pages that people have mae that have beatnik right there in the title.