In John Bassett McCleary's book, "freak" is "a self-denigrating term used by hippies to describe themselves." And "flower power" is "pacifism, the turning of one's cheek." That's because McCleary's book is The Hippie Dictionary, a 720-page archive of a now-vanishing lexicon.
"I started with the title," says McCleary, who mingled with the era's stars as a music-industry photographer and who will be at Books Inc. (1344 Park St., Alameda) on Thursday, August 13. At first, "The Hippie Dictionary sounded almost like an oxymoron." Yet the more he thought about it, the more McCleary realized that "many new and exciting words and emotions were developed during this profound period of time. We took physical words and gave them emotional or spiritual meanings." Such linguistic leaps and bounds "deserved a serious dictionary.
"I started out carrying a pad of paper and pen, and writing down every word that came to me in a conversation, book, or movie. That took over five years," the author says. "I then started writing out definitions that I remembered. Later, I went to the library and dug into other slang and ethnic dictionaries to verify my definitions." That's when McCleary was startled to discover how many words on his list had never before been officially defined: "I also realized that much of the language of the time consisted of phrases — words combined to form new ideas or feelings, such as 'right on,' 'far out,' 'get it on.'"
A San Francisco-born third-generation journalist now living in Monterey, McCleary participated as a youth in antiwar demonstrations across the country, including the 1970 rally during which students burned to the ground a Bank of America mere blocks away from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
As the creators and original speakers of the words and terms compiled in his newly revised and expanded book grow ever older, "my primary hope is that society will not throw out the wonderful hippie ideals of peace, love, and tolerance because they can't look past the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But of course ... hippies indulged in sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll with a purity and a social and spiritual message."
While working on the book, McCleary found that what he missed most of all from his own hippie-era experiences was hitchhiking. "It exemplified the spirit of freedom and the value of sharing — to walk out your door, stick out your thumb, meet new people, and go new places. The sad thing is that twisted, insecure, and sexually inadequate people eventually ruined it for everyone. Girls started getting raped, drivers and hitchers started robbing and taking advantage of other people, and the dreams of brother- and sisterhood on the road died." Luckily, other dreams didn't. 7:30 p.m., free. BooksInc.net
What the Fork - January 19, 10:29 AM
Culture Spy - January 18, 10:25 AM
What the Fork - January 17, 1:52 PM
Culture Spy - January 11, 9:55 AM
What the Fork - January 3, 2:06 PM