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Old 01-14-2019, 02:21 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is online now
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What did "vegetable" mean in 1960s slang?

I decided to reread the "Cat Who..." series, and noticed something in the first book, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (1966) that hadn't stuck out to me back when I was a teenager, the odd use of the word vegetable in reference to a person.

"Her husband teaches art at Penniman school, and he's having a one-man show. He's a vegetable, but he does lovely water colors." Then later "Buchwalter was the quiet man at the Halapay table - the vegetable who pained lovely watercolors, in Sandy Halapay's estimation."

What is meant by this? I assume that given he's an art teacher Braunn isn't saying that he's brain-dead, is she?
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:13 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Robert L. Chapman, in American Slang (1987) defines it as "A person lacking normal senses, responses, intelligence, etc.; = basket case, r****d."
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:28 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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The term has a current cognate in the phrase "persistent vegetative state" describing someone who has no higher brain function. Then you factor in the hyperbole.

Last edited by KneadToKnow; 01-14-2019 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:32 PM
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GreysonCarlisle GreysonCarlisle is offline
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The term vegetating was in use during the 80s, and it might be similar. It meant acting like a plant, staying in one place and not doing much that was productive. John's vegetating in his office instead of working on hardware specs.

ETA: Been around a while.

Last edited by GreysonCarlisle; 01-14-2019 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:44 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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It was a derogatory term for someone severely mentally retarded, which was the polite phrasing at the time.
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:27 PM
penultima thule penultima thule is offline
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Last weekend it was so hot in Sydney our whole family just vegged out around the swimming pool.

If you do the same on the sofa in front of the TV you are a couch potato.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:48 PM
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In their 1967 album Absolutely Free, the Mothers of Invention seem obsessed with vegetables.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:53 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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We used to play a game we called "vegetables" this was in the 60s. We'd throw frisbees at each other. If it hit your arm, you couldn't use that arm. If it hit your leg, you couldn't use that leg. When you had no arms or legs left, you were a vegetable and lost the game. (A hit to the neck knocked you out of the game immediately as you were considered decapitated)
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:53 PM
blondebear blondebear is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man View Post
In their 1967 album Absolutely Free, the Mothers of Invention seem obsessed with vegetables.
Yep...

"Call any vegetable and the chances are gooooooood,
That a vegetable will respond to you!"

Last edited by blondebear; 01-14-2019 at 08:54 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:33 PM
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There was a really bad joke going around in the very early 70's:

What's the worst part about eating vegetables?

SPOILER:
Helping her back up on the wheel chair



I was around in the 60's. A vegetable was a person who could not walk and/or move on their own, most specifically a quadriplegic. But it was also sometimes applied to anyone described as a "cripple". The person did not have to be brain dead or in a coma to fit the term.

Seems derogatory today, but back then it wasn't really meant to be.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:48 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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It really was. In fact, it's like the dictionary definition of why political correctness was invented and what it was intended to stomp out.
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Old 01-15-2019, 07:25 AM
Banksiaman Banksiaman is offline
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Peter Weir's 1974 movie The Cars that ate Paris is a movie about car culture in a small Australian town. Some of the scenes are set in the local hospital where the patients are introduced as complete or semi-veggies depending on how badly injured they are.
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Old 01-15-2019, 01:37 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by penultima thule View Post
Last weekend it was so hot in Sydney our whole family just vegged out around the swimming pool.

If you do the same on the sofa in front of the TV you are a couch potato.
Yes, and if you waste your time in front of the computer, you are a mouse potato. If your shoulder hurts from too many hours as a mouse potato, you've hurt your potator cuff.
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Old 01-15-2019, 02:59 PM
nelliebly nelliebly is online now
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While the term "vegetable" was around in the Sixties and meant someone in a vegetative state, but it wasn't used as a slang term for someone who was an idiot. In other words, people might have said, "Poor Trudy. Her husband had a stroke, and now he's just a vegetable," but they didn't say, "You vegetable! You just backed into my van, man!" or "He's such a vegetable! He wears his bell bottoms tucked into his boots!"

Maybe this was some regional slang? I grew up in Chicagoland.
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