What is the origin of 'the straight dope?'

Note that I did not capitalize it. I know the history of the column, but I’m trying to explain to non-American who is helping with a Staff Report what the phrase means (okay, that the easy part) and where I came from. I’m guessing it’s underworld rgot from the early part of the 20th century, but I don’t want to guess.

make that, “argot.”

Here’s what OED has on dope in this sense, with a few of the early cites.

Surprisingly, the earliest cite I can find for straight dope in the OED is 1979. Straight, of course, simply means here real, direct, genuine. It’s such a natural adjective to use with dope in this sense that I’m sure the phrase could be found much earlier.

Was this column published under “The Straight Dope” back in 1973?

If 1979 is the earliest reference that the editors of the OED can find, they’re not trying very hard. I improved on that in five minutes.

The New York Times, Pat Sheedy for Lawson, December 24, 1904.

“‘Lawson,’ said Sheedy, 'is giving us some straight dope. He is telling the exact truth as I have seen it all my life.”

The New York Times, Books of the Times, November 28, 1934.

“At this distance, it looks as it there were silliness on both sides – on Mencken’s for not permitting his suddenly sacrosanct name and talent to be used, and on Rascoe’s for not confronting Mencken over a beer table with a demand for the straight dope.”

And the Online Etymology Dictionary, has this to say about the origin of the word dope:

1807, Amer.Eng., “sauce, gravy,” from Du. doop “thick dipping sauce.” Extension to “drug” is 1889, from practice of smoking semi-liquid opium preparation. Meaning “foolish, stupid person” is older (1851) and may have a sense of “thick-headed.” Sense of “inside information” (1901) may come from knowing before the race which horse had been drugged to influence performance. Dope-fiend is attested from 1896.

Which supports some criticism of the OED.

This could inspire a thread asking if the OED has outlived its usefulness.

But how is a reference from an Arthur Hailey novel somehow more respectable than a book review article from the New York Times?

The Alex Haley quotation from the OED is really a cite for “straight” in the unevasive or straightforward sense. It’s mere happenstance (based on author word choice) that it was followed by the word “dope”. The earliest quotation in the OED containing the phrase “straight dope” is from 1941:

But that’s from the entry for “no shit”. The OED doesn’t have an entry for the phrase “straight dope” itself.

But the OED is interested in words, not phrases. They might mention a phrase while documenting a word, but don’t attempt to track down every combination of words out there.

It’s interesting that “dope” meaning drugs is apparently unrelated to “stupid person”. But I would have thought that “striaght dope” was synonymous with “undiluted medicine”, information being analagous to medicine–something that a strong constitution is required to “swallow” without any “sugar coating”.

LL Cool J lied to us!!! :eek:

My take comes from watching the series Deadwood where they were always dealing with “dope” their word for drugs. “Straight dope” would be the undiluted form of the drug, herion most likely. Getting the straight dope means getting the real thing.
I don’t know if there’s anything to this but it sounds good to me.

The OED is still one of the most respected reference sources in the world, as it well should be. Something that mammoth doesn’t update itself overnight. The OED is currently updating around the letter “R” if I’m not mistaken. Most entries that haven’t been updated are from before 1989. That precludes the wonderful world of digital electronic newspaper databases, et al.

The earliest found cite for “straight dope” meaning the correct information is 11 May 1904 by me. It was in the Anaconda(MT) Standard.

Note that “dope” is in quote marks, indicating that it was a rather new word.

The modifier “straight” was added about this time to the previously used word “dope” which meant information, first appearing in the late 1890s referring to horse racing information, usually inside information. Other uses of “dope” in relation to horse racing at this time included dope sheets, dope book, dope out. In all cases, it referred to information about things, usually horse racing.

Any ideas on how the word “dope” came to mean information?

The standard explanation involves the term dope, meaning an illegal stimulant, used from the 1870s on race horses. This perhaps morphed into using the term to mean information about horses/sporting events by the late 1890s.

As more an more books/newspapers are digitized, we get more instances of earlier useage and are more able to surmise a connection. The connection I gave above could always be wrong. :slight_smile:

The OED third edition, due out sometime around 2037, is reportedly expanding accepted references to include a greatly expanded variety of printed sources, including such ones as song lyrics.

And being available some 30 years from now serves us HOW, exactly?

Look, I’m all over some people, like me, usually, being a generation or two in the past, but doesn’t that make their pronouncements damned close to useless?

It’s projected to be completed in 2037. You can view the current state, right now, online.

From the previously-cited Wikipedia article [did you even read it?]:

Good luck with that one.