Head shop

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Here is a nice piece of Japanglish from Joseph Williams:

As you can see, this Japanese sportswear store (close to Ueno Park in Tokyo) translates honten 本店 ("main shop; flagship store") as "head shop," which in English means a place to buy drug paraphernalia. There were no bongs for sale.  Looking on Google, Joseph found that this mistake is very common.


  1. David Morris said,

    April 14, 2016 @ 11:51 pm

    The vocational college attached to my university has a hairdressing course. The students practice on a dummy head, which I presume they bought at a head shop.

  2. The suffocated said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:10 am

    Just curious: why is this regarded as a mistake but not a difference in vocabulary like pants vs trousers?

  3. Bathrobe said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 1:21 am

    "head shop," which in English means a place to buy drug paraphernalia

    I've never heard "head shop" used in this sense, although I hasten to say I'm probably not typical.

  4. Jakob said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 3:07 am

    Note also "head office", where "head" may come closest to what was intended here.

  5. Jan said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 4:37 am

    I read Hero Shop. I had to look closer. Twice.

  6. January First-of-May said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 5:07 am

    I've never heard "head shop" used in this sense, although I hasten to say I'm probably not typical.

    Seconded (on both parts).

  7. Bathrobe said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 5:55 am

    I asked members of my family tonight. Only my brother-in-law had heard of it, and he said that it wasn't often used. Perhaps it's more common in the U.S., or perhaps in certain sections of society.

  8. m said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 6:56 am

    Here in Ann Arbor, our head shop called Middle Earth closed around 2 years ago after 47 years in business. From a magazine article about the history: "it was, like a lot of the campus retail, a head shop–sort of a lifestyle store for dope smokers with paraphernalia, posters, beads, and incense."

    According to Wikipedia, the first head shops opened in 1966 in the Haight and in New York. Like Middle Earth in its early days, they sold legal items associated with pot-smoking (so they pretended their items were meant for smoking legal tobacco), and at some point there were many of them, notably near college campuses.

    The term is totally familiar to me, an American. Maybe the term didn't become as familiar in England.

  9. RachelP said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 7:11 am

    I think the term 'head shop' was too informal to ever appear on a shop sign any way, was it not? And that is partly to do with skirting illegality. If you were not part of a particular subculture you are unlikely to have heard it.

  10. Sally said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 7:12 am

    Years ago, a colleague told me that he had gone to Brigham Young University in Utah to speak at a conference. He knew nothing of BYU, and so had come unprepared for the local Mormon culture.

    Getting to the conference late and suffering from a pounding headache, he looked in vain for any coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine to soften the pain. He finally whispered something to the food servers, who directed him a few blocks away to an establishment where he could get a cup of coffee. What sort of place was it ? A head shop.

  11. Graham Asher said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 7:54 am

    'Head shop' is familiar to me, an Englishman, as a shop for druggies and hippies. It's old-fashioned; I haven't seen it printed or heard it said for forty years or so. Not that I ever went into such places.

  12. Brett said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 8:26 am

    As a forty-ish American, "head shop" was familiar to me, but it sounds like hopelessly dated slang. And while I've never been in the market for drug paraphernalia, I have been into such establishments to buy other things that were hard to find elsewhere.

  13. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 8:33 am

    The suffocated: If "head shop" doesn't mean "main shop" in English, then I'd say it's a mistake for Japanese people to use it in English, even if the meaning "store for drug paraphernalia" isn't as widely known as we Americans of a certain generation think.

    There's a head shop in my town, for lawful users of medical marijuana of course, but I don't know whether the young customers call it by that phrase.

    By the way, I assume this "head" is from the suffix meaning "addict, habitual user", as in "pothead" and "acidhead".

    As Prof. Mair said, we Americans might call that store the company's "flagship store", but that doesn't sound British to me. Is there a British phrase? "Flagship shop" might be a little too jingly.

  14. The suffocated said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 9:41 am

    @Jerry Friedman

    Does "flagship shop" mean 本店 in AmE? I always think of 本店 as "founding shop".

  15. pj said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 9:52 am

    @ Jerry Friedman
    Although stores are usually shops here in the UK, a flagship store is still a flagship store. See, for example, here. Which is a shame, as 'flagship shop' is rather nice, and presumably the staff would have to keep the flagship shop shipshape, which is even nicer.

    (@Jan: I also saw 'Hero'.)

  16. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 9:55 am

    I actually used "head shop" just the other day, in an online discussion with some other middle-aged guys who live in the same suburban town as I do. (One was complaining that his inchoate plan to open a tattoo parlor was apparently not consistent with the uptight local zoning rules; I semi-jocularly proposed he announce plans for a head shop and then suggest the tattoo parlor as a compromise after the opening bid attracted predictable opposition.) I have trouble imagining an AmEng native speaker of my generational cohort and adjoining cohorts not knowing the term, but I guess I don't know about the Youth Today. Hits on COCA, fwiw, do not seem to trail off in the 21st century, and there's a bit of dialogue from a 2011 NBC Dateline episode going "We're inside a so-called head shop in New York City, where you can buy all kinds of drug paraphernalia …" So the so-called qualifier is a flag that not all viewers were expected to know the term, but OTOH they certainly weren't offering an alternative This-Is-Today's-Slang name for the relevant sort of business.

  17. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:01 am

    BTW, Ann Arbor may have fallen on hard times but I'm pleased to see that the 1973-founded combination head-shop-and-waterbed-emporium (a rather lovely bit of hippie-capitalist theorizing about marketing synergies) in my old college town is apparently still going: http://rubbermatch.com/headshop-letter.htm. (Never went there when I was a student in the mid-Eighties, although that was in part because there was another now-defunct head shop located slightly closer to campus and I was not in the market for a waterbed.)

  18. Ellen K. said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:18 am

    "Youth today"? I'm 46 and didn't know the term head shop.

  19. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:35 am

    Ellen K.: did you and your teenage peers have a different name for this type of establishment (whether or not you were personally a customer)? Because I can certainly imagine e.g. regional variations in lexicon (loose analogy: "package store" as a sort of place to buy liquor is I believe very much a regionalism in AmEng and often puzzling/opaque for people who didn't grow up in the relevant region). Or was the type of establishment sufficiently remote from the experience of you and your peers that you just didn't need a name for it?

    There was I think starting in the 1980's a concerted crackdown on the paraphernalia industry that was not nationally uniform in timing or degree, with the consequence that in some but not all parts of the U.S. the classic '70's-style overt head shops were (at different times in different places) largely driven out of business and to the extent the same merchandise was still sold it was via other and more discreet distribution channels. So it is probably possible, depending on where you grew up, to be not that much younger than I am and not have had much or any first-hand exposure to the referent — although you still could have picked up the lexical item second-hand via literary/journalistic/cultural references.

  20. Neil Dolinger said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:52 am

    In suburban Wilmington, DE, during my coming-of-age years (roughly 1975-85), a head shop carried all of the merch that m mentioned above, and often carried records and tapes as well. Since I bought a lot of records at that time, I found myself in these shops fairly often. m mentioned posters — I remember that a lot of these were printed with fluorescent inks for use with "black" (ultraviolet) lighting.

    Jerry Friedman said, "There's a head shop in my town, for lawful users of medical marijuana of course, but I don't know whether the young customers call it by that phrase" Jerry, does this place carry all of the other "lifestyle" stuff too?

  21. mollymooly said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:52 am

    In Ireland, the "head shop", as a phrase and as a thing, became common in the noughties, alongside a moral panic over "legal highs", aka "designer drugs". I can't say what percentage of their business was related to good old marijuana and what to modern synthetics. In my day there was no such thing as bongs; it was all Rizlas. I can't say how the young people are smoking.

  22. Neil Dolinger said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:57 am

    Although most of these shops were locally owned, I remember that a national chain Spencer's Gifts carried a lot of the same selection. They never carried music, and eventually they got out of the drug paraphernalia business, but at the time I lumped them in the head shop category.

  23. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 11:26 am

    My own relevant coming-of-age years seem to have been very close in time and space to Neil Dolinger's, so he may recall the place where I probably bought a plurality of all records I bought between approx '78 and '83, which was noteworthy because like the Connecticut place I mentioned above it was not only a record store but a head shop AND a waterbed emporium (it was called Wonderland, as in Alice In, located around toward the back of a strip mall on the south side of Naaman's Rd just west of the corner with Marsh Rd). I found the bongs/waterbeds combo so odd that I was and am surprised to have lived near two such places over the course of my life, but maybe that was actually a common combo and if I'd read the relevant industry trade magazines I would have known that such double-purpose stores (with or without records as well) could be found across the country. My lexicon certainly lacks a single label to describe such a combination business, however.

  24. Smith said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 11:40 am

    Once again, I am amazed by what one learns on Language Log, in this instance that there are people around who don't know what a head shop is. My first experience of same was probably Gastown in the mid-70s, and I haven't had any sense that the word has lost currency. Hilariously, there is a town in Anhui called 头铺 … perhaps where all the described "paraphernalia" is manufactured!

  25. Guy said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:00 pm

    I'm probably one of the "Youth Today", (am I still? Or have I already begun to feel the sweet kiss of death?) and am a little surprised to hear that "head shop" sounds dated, I mean, it was current when I was in college less than a decade ago. It's less surprising to me that non-Americans don't know it, because it seems like it would be slightly regional.

    But for all the people who don't know the term, what would you call this kind of shop in ordinary conversation? Would you just say "smoke shop" and wink when you said "smoke"?

  26. Ginger Yellow said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

    It seems I'm the only one here who enjoys serendipitous juxtaposition of "London Sports Tokyo".

  27. m said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

    Maybe head shops now are confined to places where pockets of hippies still live — which suggests, perhaps, that Ann Arbor's loss of our head shop is very significant. Could this be why some LL readers, who may not live among hippies, are unaware of them?

    Possible piece of evidence about a head shop with the old hippie spirit: the boutique Alice in Hulaland, in the town of Paia on Maui, Hawaii. Alice in Hulaland offers lots of t-shirts showing psychedelic interpretations of incidents from Alice in Wonderland like the caterpillar on his mushroom smoking his hookah; also other relevant head-shop merchandise. Paia is definitely a hippie/surfer/whatever kind of place. It also attracts all sorts of tourists as they start down the famous road to Hana. That's where Puff the Magic Dragon frolics, according to some interpretations in the hippie spirit.

    The Willie Nelson song "Alice in Hulaland" has something to do with the shop, but I don't know how it relates to this interesting comment thread.

  28. andyb said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:18 pm

    @RachelP: "I think the term 'head shop' was too informal to ever appear on a shop sign any way, was it not?"

    It has definitely appeared on many shop signs, and still does.

    Informality is a virtue when you're aiming at stoners. And as for skirting illegality, the original point of "head shop" is that it _doesn't_ say anything illegal. It's a shop where you buy rolling papers, and metal pipes, and even water pipes, for, like, tobacco, man. Wink wink. The hippies will understand what you're selling, but the squares won't. Of course that couldn't have lasted very long—surely, within a few months, everyone in the SFPD and NYPD vice squads must have known what "head shop" meant, and by the late 70s, I think more parents than kids knew it, so it can't have been very useful as a signal to the hip. But that's not a reason to stop using it; it's at best a reason to not start using it if you weren't already.

    Nowadays, there's the nostalgia factor—and the fact that a store with "head shop" on the sign makes you think of hippies buying bongs, as opposed to methheads buying bowl pipes, which probably makes it more attractive to many potential customers.

    Anyway, at least in the SF Bay Area, many such stores are called "smoke shops" now, but wherever you'd expect nostalgia to be a major factor, you'll still see "head shop". For example, the place on Haight St. that implies they've been around since 1968 calls itself a "head shop", and the place down the street that looks like a 90s retro-60 shop doesn't need such a sign because it's named "Head Rush".

    I don't know if it's the same in the rest of the US, but in Europe, almost every major city that has a similar "hip" area has head shops, usually labeled that way, in English (although sometimes one word, as "headshop")—except in countries with a smart shop tradition like the Netherlands, where they use that term instead (even if they don't sell hallucinogens).

  29. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

    Regarding the etymology of "head shop", I always took it to mean "things to buy for your head space" rather than "things that potheads buy".

  30. Neil Dolinger said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

    @J. W. Brewer,
    Aw, hell yeah, I remember that place! Closer to Naamans @ Foulk, though, if we are thinking about the same place. I don't think I have seen the waterbed / drug tool combo anywhere else. Not that it doesn't make sense from a marketing POV. I think that carrying beds of any kind requires a much larger footprint than most drug-addled good-times entrepreneurs could afford to rent.

  31. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

    Wiktionary has a 1936 quotation illustrating "head" in the drug-user sense (its sense 11 of the noun), which I think tends to support the theory, which was also my default assumption, that "head shop" = "shop whose intended customer base is made up of heads." (I also learn from wiktionary that "hophead," which in AmEng is a decidedly archaic pre-1960's synonym for "dope fiend," apparently means "beer/ale enthusiast" in BrEng.)

  32. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

    J.W.: You may be right, but I don't think that's the head Grace Slick was urging us to keep in "White Rabbit" in 1966. The usage of "head" to mean "headspace" or "high" doesn't seem to be covered in Wiktionary.

  33. andyb said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: "If "head shop" doesn't mean "main shop" in English, then I'd say it's a mistake for Japanese people to use it in English."

    I think that depends on whether the sign is written for foreign tourists. A German "Headshop" may sell "Waterpipes and other Tabakaccessories". Back when they had "Recordshops", they'd advertise "Rock & Pop & Blackmusic", and have sections like "Backcatalogue", "Darkscene", and "Selections from DJ-Floorcommander Talla". A trattoria may have "Italianfood" on their sign. An American or Brit could probably guess what most of that means,* but certainly wouldn't consider those signs to be proper English. But that's fine, because the signs aren't primarily aimed at American and British tourists, but at Germans who speak (at least a little) English.

    So, if "head shop" means "main shop" to Japanese people who speak English as a second language, and that's who the sign is aimed at, then it seems reasonable.

    * "Blackmusic" doesn't mean any music made by black people, but specifically hiphop (although it used to mean specifically soul). "Backcatalogue" doesn't mean "back catalog", but specifically rare out-of-print records and/or imports from the US, and often specifically either late 60s rock or early 80s punk. "Darkscene" means music for people who go to festivals where everyone wears black (goth, black metal, EBM, …). Also notice "tabakaccessories", because many Germans think "tabak" is an English word.

  34. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 2:40 pm

    Given that in US English a place where stuff is sold is typically a store rather than a shop, is there any particular reason why it is 'head shop' and not 'head store'?

  35. Guy said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

    @Ginger Yellow

    I thought it was interesting that "Tokyo" only appears in the romaji (the katakana just says "London Sports"). I also though it was interesting that it's "London Sports", since you might expect the "London" part to suggest it should be influenced by UK English. Can a UK reader clarify whether one would expect (as I assume) "sport" here instead of "sports", the latter of which I would consider normal for US English? Or am I overgeneralizing this difference?

  36. Guy said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 2:44 pm

    @Andrew (not the same one)

    I disagree with your premise. For this American a "shop" is small and typically locally owned, like most head shops. A "store" usually has multiple aisles and is part of a chain. (These are just rough criteria).

  37. Bathrobe said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

    @ Guy

    The Japanese word for 'sport' is スポーツ supōtsu and 'sports' is the most common way for naive Japanese to say the English word.

  38. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

    AmEng usage is more complicated because there are a lot of fixed combinations. That place I referenced above (leaving aside the waterbed-sales part of the operation) was both a head shop and a record store. "Record shop" would be highly unidiomatic in AmEng, and not because of any background assumption that the prototypical example would be chain-owned rather than mom-and-pop because the idiom "record store" was already fixed when mom-and-pop single-location operators dominated the industry.

  39. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 4:45 pm

    Starbucks remains a coffee shop, Kinko's a copy shop, and Krispy Kreme a donut shop despite their corporate franchise status.

  40. J. W. Brewer said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 4:58 pm

    Looking for pre-cannabis analogies for head shop (via the google books n gram viewer and the AmEng subcorpus), you can see the arbitrariness of idioms: "Cigar store" is standard with "cigar shop" a trivial-in-percentage-terms minority variant, but "tobacco shop" is consistently much more common than "tobacco store." And "smoke store" as a potential variant of "smoke shop" is so rare that the n-gram viewer won't even display it (although you can find a handful of hits if you search the corpus directly).

  41. Guy said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

    @J W Brewer

    Yes, I think it would usually be "pet shop" and "stationery store", regardless of the store's specific features. It's definitely true that my original statement is an oversimplification.


    So a Japanese speaker wouldn't be usually be attuned enough to dialect differences – or otherwise feel that the loanword is "nativized" enough – to render it as スポ一ト? Could we expect alternation between サッカー and フットボール to be similarly insensitive to this kind of context?

  42. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

    I had understood that 'coffee shop' was used because the original sense of 'shop' was a place where things are made (and that sense is certainly more alive in US English, being often used where we would say 'workshop' or the like). That would also cover 'copy shop', though not 'donut shop'. A store, of course, is a place where things are kept; neither in origin meant a place where things are sold.

  43. Ken Miner said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 6:05 pm

    I presently live in the US state of Colorado, one of the states in which recreational marijuana is legal. I predict that head shops (and hence the term) will become obsolete in these states, since there you typically buy your pipes and whatnot at the same place where you buy your weed.

  44. Martha said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 7:27 pm

    Count me as one for whom "head shop" is perfectly normal. Not being a pot smoker, I've been in one exactly one time in my life, as a tween, when my older sister was getting a belly button ring. So I have a notion that some of them also sell other "alternative" paraphernalia?

    I just asked my husband (also not a pot smoker) if he knew what a head shop was, and he asked if it was a place where you buy "hippie shit."

    I live in Oregon, where marijuana is also legal, and I wonder if being in a place where "everybody" either smokes weed or is okay with it is partly why I'm so familiar with such a place.

    I'm not sure I agree with Ken Miner, though. Marijuana stores are called "dispensaries" here, and if/once they make it legal to sell weed at head shops, it seems possible that such stores would be called head shops.

    Guy – "Pet shop" is definitely not a collocation for me. Most definitely it's "pet store."

  45. Bathrobe said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 7:48 pm


    スポーツ is nativised as a foreign word. That is, people know it's English but it's well established as a Japanese word. As I said, most naive Japanese use 'sports' in English as they assume that is the normal term. You are attributing a rather high level of sophistication to Japanese speakers in assuming sensitivity to minor dialect differences in English.

    サッカー is well established in Japan. I don't know if there is any pressure from English to change it to フットボール, or whether such pressure might be having any impact.

  46. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

    In Washington State, stores that sell marijuana for recreational use are "pot shops" (which resemble the heads shops of yore); those that sell it for medicinal use are "dispensaries", are governed by different legislation and regulatory apparatus, and have a rather different vibe.

    Or so I'm told by those who frequent them.

  47. andyb said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

    @Andrew (not the same one): "I had understood that 'coffee shop' was used because the original sense of 'shop' was a place where things are made (and that sense is certainly more alive in US English, being often used where we would say 'workshop' or the like). That would also cover 'copy shop', though not 'donut shop'."

    Why not "donut shop"? Most of them are franchised mega-chains, but they still make them on-premises. In fact, that was the whole point of one of the most famous commercials of the 80s, "time to make the donuts". Most of the big chains design their standard layouts so you can see the kitchen from the customer area.

    By the way, I think outside the US and Canada, the word is usually still spelled "doughnut", and "donut shop" specifically implies a franchise of Dunkin, Tim's, or another North American chain, but I'm not positive about that.

  48. andyb said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 10:55 pm

    @Ken Miner: "I predict that head shops (and hence the term) will become obsolete in these states, since there you typically buy your pipes and whatnot at the same place where you buy your weed."

    It'll be interesting to see where this goes in the future.

    In California, pot itself is regulated county-by-county, and many cities and counties also have other regulations that have nothing to do with pot but still affect the shops (e.g., in San Francisco, if they want to sell perishable edibles, they can't sell rolling papers).

    But I asked two friends who work at pot shops, and they both gave me different reasons why neither one sells "hippie shit", and neither answer had anything to do with regulations.

    According to one of them, ever since home delivery became legal, the only reason people come into a storefront is looking for a knowledgeable salesman who can help them figure out what they want, so they designed the shop around that. He also said that their "open, professional layout" made them look like a smart shop in Amsterdam (although that's not what at all it looks like to me). If people want the "hippie shit", there's a smoke shop on the same block.

    According to the other, the "hippie shit" is mostly Zippo lighters and mass-produced posters and so on, which would turn off the actual hippies, who want a co-op where everything in the shop is locally made. People who want the "hippie shit" can stay out of Bernal and down in the Inner Mission.

  49. Victor Mair said,

    April 15, 2016 @ 11:59 pm

    On the connection between waterbeds, MJ, and records, I knew people in the late 60s who spent a lot of time lying around on their waterbed, smoking pot, and listening to Dylan and other records. I kid you not.

  50. Joyce Melton said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 12:05 am

    Head shops are responsible for all the superhero movies you see these days. In the 1970s, comic books were in trouble. The traditional places to buy them, markets, drug stores and newsstands were not carrying them much any more because of the low profit margins. But head shops sold "underground" comics, comics devoted to culture alternatives and drugs. And they sold a lot of them.

    A few of the head shop owners started carrying regular comics and someone (Phil Seuling, not a head shop owner) got the idea of negotiating direct sales (non-returnable) with the comics companies. It worked.

    Comic shops became a sort of marriage of head shops and collectible bookshops thereby saving the comics industry and comics and kept them alive long enough to be turned into movies.

    A lot of modern comic shops, like Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash in Red Bank, New Jersey, still have a head shop vibe.

  51. Ken Miner said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 12:08 am

    @andyb home delivery? My God, what are we coming to? :)

    As I understand it, "dispensary" is a holdover from medical marijuana. In Colorado that whole setup of course became a joke; anybody could arrange to get the stuff from a "dispensary". My daughter still uses "dispensary" for what you call a "pot shop" – which actually I've never heard, but may be the up and coming term.

  52. Ken Miner said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 12:37 am

    @Joyce Melton That's a damned interesting post, & explains a lot. One of my former students bought a comic shop and I always wondered how the devil he stayed in business. There's a book in there somewhere.

  53. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 4:45 am

    @Jerry Friedman: I wouldn't think of a dispensary as a head shop, although I've never been inside one so wouldn't know whether they sold drug paraphernalia. (And I didn't know there was a second "r" in there until the spell checker told me. It's been silent to me all these years.) I guess even if they do sell drug paraphernalia I would think of it as a separate classification from a head shop. Totally different milieu.

    @Gregory Kusnick: I'm hearing it as "Feed your head" (which I took as a drug reference) not "Keep your head"

  54. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 4:56 am

    @Andrew (not the same one) & @Guy: Then there's the difference between coffee shop (a place where light meals are served and that's there primary business but they wouldn't get mad at you if you came in and just ordered a slice of pie or a cup of coffee, like the counter at Woolworth's of years past) and coffee house (a place where you go specifically to drink coffee, although they might also serve sandwiches and pastries). I would accept "coffee shop" both for local businesses and chains but "coffee house" for local businesses only, not big chains.

  55. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 4:58 am

    And I'm right now streaming an Arabic cover of "White Rabbit." Cool!

  56. Victor Mair said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 5:30 am

    From a friend:

    I knew the Middle Earth store in Ann Arbor in the 70s and early 80s and liked it very much, often went there. It was hippie-ish but it hadn't turned into a head shop then. I didn't know the word "head shop" until your post.
    This "head shop" conversation is like everyone enjoying a happy party.

  57. Gregory Kusnick said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 11:34 am

    Chas: What do you call Starbucks then? By your definitions, it would seem to be neither a coffee shop nor a coffee house.

    Here in Seattle, where there is a Starbucks or one of its competitors on literally every downtown streetcorner, we call them coffee shops, not coffee houses. What you're calling a coffee shop, I would call a lunch counter or a diner.

  58. andyb said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

    @Ken Miner:

    As I understand it, the argument that sold the city on allowing home delivery was that it's safer. Kids, scam artists, foreign tourists, even people from the South Bay can easily walk into a storefront dispensary, and the only way we could track them down later is by their signature, which is useless. But if someone has it delivered to their house, we've got the address.

    California still has only medical marijuana, so technically they're all still dispensaries. And I may just be reporting the Washington dialect that Gregory Kushnick suggested above, because at least one of the people I know who works in a dispensary lived in Seattle not long ago… But I _think_ the term "pot shop" exists here, although I'm not sure whether it has different connotations than "dispensary" (less pretense of medical purposes?).

  59. andyb said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

    @Gregory Kushnick and Chas Belov: To me (in San Francisco):

    A "coffee shop" is a place that primarily serves espresso drinks and pastries, whether it's a Starbucks, a local hipster place, or a Mexican bakery. (Of course donut shops don't count.)

    A "coffeeshop" is an old-fashioned, comfort-focused restaurant where you can get coffee all day. It especially fits places that look like they've been unchanged since the 1970s. If it gets too fancy, it's a café (although so is a place that looks like a French or Italian café). If it gets too Denny's, it's a diner.

    A "coffee house" has a stage for open-mic folk music, or a room full of overstuffed furniture with books to read, or something else that makes it more of a place to hang out than a place to drink coffee. (But just having counters to work on your laptop or have pre-startup business meetings doesn't make it a coffee house; that's still a coffee shop.)

    I didn't realize I spelled the first two differently until I managed to confuse a German friend over SMS a few weeks ago.

  60. George said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

    Well, I'm Irish, in my early fifties and, pace mollymooly, I've been familiar with the term since my twenties (or maybe even late teens… my college years anyway). And bongs were not unknown at parties. I'm talking early 80s here.

  61. John said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 6:56 pm

    I live in London but didn't grow up here. I work with people someone above has described as "potheads", though I don't associate with them socially. I have not heard the term 'head shop' before.

  62. George Gibbard said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 11:20 pm

    I'm from Ann Arbor, born there in 1979 and can't remember drug paraphernalia at Middle Earth. I remember the large collection of humorous and partly political T-shirts and stickers, also a lot of humorous greeting cards (some of them obscene), and for a while they sold exotic musical instruments. I also remember a kind of candy packaged as a large medical pill, called "Damitol".

  63. Victor Mair said,

    April 17, 2016 @ 10:42 am

    From a former resident of Ann Arbor:

    Ann Arbor has been mentioned several times in the "head shop" conversation, and it seems several commenters attended college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I might add two true stories about Ann Arbor and drugs. I was working as secretary at an engineering department at the university when one day the city’s only newspaper, Ann Arbor News, carried two blazing headlines. The one on the top of the page said a big drug ring in Ann Arbor had been busted. The ringleader it turned out was none other than a professor in our own engineering department who, incidentally, was the only one who had gotten his Ph.D. (in physics) from Harvard University. He was in his forties. The FBI found out about his ring because one of his ships had been shipwrecked down near New Orleans, and they had tracked the ring to him in Ann Arbor. The second bold headline (in the middle of the newspaper) carried news about some achievement of the new president of the university, who had been until recently also a professor in our department (and also a Ph.D. in physics). He too was in his forties. Our department had only 11 professors, so it was remarkable that two of them landed in bold headlines on the same day on the front page of the city’s newspaper. This happened in the 70s, at the height of the hippie revolution. The second story is that not long afterwards (perhaps in the early 80s) another big drug story was reported on the front page of the Ann Arbor newspaper. Another big drug ring had been busted. Ann Arbor it seems was the drug capital of the (U.S.) Midwest. I knew that the university dorms were full of drugs. Well the leader of this drug ring in Ann Arbor was a young graduate of the university’s chemistry department. He ran at least one lab that made amphetamines or something (I can’t remember now). He himself had eluded the FBI just in time and I don’t know if they ever caught him. For all I know he may be living the good life somewhere in South America or on the Riviera under an assumed name.

  64. PeterL said,

    April 17, 2016 @ 3:58 pm

    If the Japanese want to use "head shop", that's their privilege. The French misuse "shampooing"; Americans misuse "entrée". Anyway, 本部 and 本社 translate as "headquarters", so why shouldn't 本店 translate as "head shop"? (I'd say "main store"; but that's just my dialectical preference.)

  65. Xtifr said,

    April 17, 2016 @ 4:41 pm

    As an experiment, I tried typing "head shop" into Google Maps. The results suggest that Google, at least in my area, understands the term in the hippie sense. Of course, I live in Berkeley, CA.

  66. Pothead par excellence said,

    April 18, 2016 @ 8:38 am

    Just open a random marijuana website and you will see that among us potheads the term "head shop" clearly means a place where they sell smoking paraphernalia (https://weedy.com/head-shops).

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