Drinking the Kool-Aid: An Introduction

The expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” is now deeply embedded into American slang. While its origins are painfully understood by most of the people who visit this site, it’s also true that no one knows when or in what context it first entered our slang lexicon. As time passes, two other characteristics of slang will occur: its earliest meaning will morph into a multitude of derivatives – indeed, that has already begun to happen – and fewer and fewer people who use it will know where it came from. If there is a recent shift in its usage, it is that the anonymity of the blogosphere seemingly encourages often uncivil – if not viciously angry – discourse, and many writers have increasingly adopted the phrase as a weapon of attack against those who dare to disagree with them.

In previous editions of the jonestown report, we have presented listings of the uses of “drinking the Kool-Aid” as the term has appeared in American newspapers and publications, organizational and media websites, and established blogs reporting on business (which is believed to have coined the term), politics, sports, and popular culture. The term is so now pervasive as to be impossible to catalogue. A Google alert for “Kool-Aid,” which used to generate two or three hits a day as recently as 2007, now results in a daily average of five to ten hits.

Beginning this year, then, this listing will present recent efforts by writers or bloggers to consider the context of the phrase itself, to explain its origin, or to argue for the care people should take in using it.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on May 20th, 2020.
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