Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Archive for May, 2014

Groovy

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 12, 2014

With nostalgia films leaning back into the 1960s these days, words like groovy are making a limited comeback.  Groovy was to the sixties what tubular was to the eighties.  In other words, it means that something or someone is excellent or awesome.

However, for those who are tech savvy, groovy is a dynamic object-oriented programming language for the Java virtual machine, and can be used anywhere Java is used.  It’s also used as a scripting language for developers who are new to the Java platform.  Groovy is similar in format to Perl, Python, Ruby, and Smalltalk.

But generally speaking, when you hear the word groovy being used, it’s in the context of awesome or excellent, cool or tubular.

Now while it’s true that the word groovy has become synonymous with the sixties, the word didn’t originate in the sixties.  In fact, it’s an extension of the slang word groove — from the phrase in the groove — that was a well-known jazz expression meaning that meant something had been well done.

Jimmy Dorsey (of Dorsey Brothers fame) had a hit for Decca Records (Decca 3721) in 1941 with his song “Man, That’s Groovy” that can be downloaded from http://www.archive.org by clicking HERE. In fact, in 1943, a motion picture shortMan, That’s Groovy” was produced, with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra recording featuring Helen O’Connell on vocals on its sound track.

That being said, the term is also found in an article by A.E. (Albert Edward) Wilson entitled, “King Panto: The Story Of Pantomime” published in 1935.  In this article, the author wrote:

After a long spell of popularity pantomime had, in fact, become “groovy” and it began to look as if it needed some kind of revivifying process.

In an article dated August 2, 1933 in Fortune Magazine, the reviewer had this to say about a performance by a group of jazz musicians.

The jazz musicians gave no grandstand performances; they simply got a great burn from playing in the groove.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published used of the word groovy than Albert Edward Wilson’s article in 1935 where groovy was used in quotation marks.  However, that it was used in 1935 shows that the word was used and understood by a segment of society prior to 1935 hence the use of the quotation marks for those who may be unfamiliar with the word and the context in which it was used.  This indicates that the word was in use in the arts industry during the early 1930s.

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