Lucy Ferriss at Lingua Franca has a post that made me as intensely nostalgic as yesterday’s Taiwan one, bringing back my late-’60s college days:
I began buttonholing friends and acquaintances. “Picture,” I told them, “a friend who is generally stoned. I say that he’s brought a lid over to my dorm room. What has he brought?”
Men and women born between 1950 and 1958, I found in this completely anecdotal survey, knew immediately that I was talking about four fingers’ worth of marijuana in a plastic bag. Those born before or after those dates (allowing for a bit of regional variation) had no idea what I was talking about. My copy editor, obviously, was a young person.
Slang references give a wide variety of definitions for the pot-related use of lid. Some designate it as an ounce of weed, others as 1/4 or 1/8 ounce. The source may be the lid of a Hellman’s mayonnaise jar, the lid of a Prince Albert tobacco can—in both cases, the amount of marijuana is enough to fill the lid—or, strangely, the finger-shape created by unrolling the lid of a coffee can with its custom key. One source refers to the fold of a sandwich Baggie as its “lid,” suggesting that the bag would be filled to that point. All these so-called authorities agree that the term arose in the 1960s and disappeared by the mid-1970s.
What puzzled me, as I wrestled with the sentence highlighted by my copy editor, was that when we were using the term, there seemed to be no alternative term.[...] [After quoting one theory:] If others have a different story for the rapid, widespread rise of the term lid in the mid-60s and its equally rapid and complete disappearance in the mid-70s, I’d be delighted to hear it.
Decades later, I discover a generational shibboleth I never knew existed!