Did Humphrey Bogart Really Hog Joints? (And If Not, Why Do We Say ‘Bogart’?)

There’s a reason Bogie doesn’t come up too much in dream blunt rotations.
Not passing that Dutchie anytime soon.
Not passing that Dutchie anytime soon. / John Springer Collection, Corbis Historical, Getty Images (Bogart); Justin Dodd, Mental Floss (bubble background)

Stoners are fun, aren’t they? They’re an entertainment staple, whether at the center of the action or providing comic relief, and perhaps more importantly, they’re an entirely inoffensive stereotype that most folks can do a half-decent impression of. 

One popular bit of weed slang that people tend to throw around in smoking circles is some variation on don’t bogart that joint, man. When it comes to herbal refreshment, bogarting is considered the height of rudeness: It violates the old puff-puff-pass rule and suggests that you’re taking your sweet time—and more than your fair share—with that spliff.

It comes, of course, from the actor Humphrey Bogart. But how the star of such venerated Hollywood classics as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon came to be associated with weed in the first place is a lot foggier (and not just because of the ganja). According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, the term itself can have a few different meanings, including “to act aggressively, in a bullying manner,” or “to enter without invitation,” as cinema’s favorite sad-faced icon was wont to do. In the 1960s, if you barged your way through a crowd or shoved someone, you could have easily been accused of bogarting.

Its second, better-known meaning also originated in the 1960s with the rise of the counterculture. It was used to describe one who retained something selfishly, or more specifically, “to monopolize or smoke too much of a cannabis cigarette.” While the screen legend wasn’t known for being a midnight toker, he did have a rather notorious habit of having a cigarette permanently dangling from his lips, which is how the association took root.

But the term was really immortalized in the Fraternity Of Man song “Don’t Bogart Me," which was used in 1969’s Easy Rider and featured the lyrics: “Don’t bogart that joint, my friend / Pass it over to me.”  

The meaning intended by the band wasn’t about smoking too much, however, but rather about hanging onto the joint for too long without smoking it. “The band was smoking some pot in our rehearsal house up in Laurel Canyon, when Elliot [Ingber, the band’s guitarist] turned to me and said, ‘Hey man, don’t bogart that thing,’” Fraternity Of Man vocalist Lawrence “Stash” Wagner told It’s Psychedelic Baby magazine in 2011. “I asked him, ‘What does ‘bogart’ mean?’ He said, ‘You know, like Humphrey Bogart always had a cigarette in his hand or hanging from his lips when talking. Well, you were hanging onto that joint while your lips were flapping.’ I said, ‘Cool, we should write a song using Bogart.’” 

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post agrees with this definition, writing in Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, From Dispensaries to Dinner Parties: “Bogarting is a term derived from the way Humphrey Bogart would just let a cigarette hang out of his mouth, not seeming to actually smoke it. Bogarting a joint is when you are holding on to it or wasting it by letting it burn down without being hit.”

Thus there are two slightly different meanings, albeit both with the same result from the point of view of the speaker: weed going where it shouldn’t, when where it should be going is into said speaker’s respiratory system. As for Bogart himself, his heavy smoking and drinking habits almost certainly contributed to his early death from esophageal cancer in 1957 at the age of 57. He probably wouldn’t be thrilled at his surname becoming a synonym for either smoking too much or not enough, but as they say, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Have you got a Big Question you’d like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Discover More Fascinating Phrase Origins: