Folk speech
general

Cigarettes

A friend who has moved around the United States frequently during lifetime noted that there was a vast number of ways to refer to cigarettes.

In New Orleans, where he lived the most substantial part of his life, they were referred to as “Joes” :

“When I first got there people would ask, ‘Can I bum a Joe?’ ”

After his confusion subsided he realized Joe was not a person, but merely another coy way to ask a stranger to donate a cigarette. In different parts of the country he has also encountered:

Stoges, stogies, cigs, fags, and cancer sticks.

The regional renaming of cigarettes is a common phenomenon, particularly in places were smoking is still deeply entrenched in the culture.  People use these alternate terms to identify themselves, and potential test others, as frequent smokers who are intimate with the terminology of smoking of their region. Opting to use a term other than cigarettes is also used when someone is “bumming” – asking for a cigarette without anything in return. It is implied that if you yourself are a smoker you will understand the need to acquire a cigarette when someone has to ask to bum. People don’t necessarily want to bum, so if they are it is because they absolutely are fiending. As a good smoker, identified by your knowledge of alternate terms, you are expected to comply.

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