The HIP Manual

The HIP Manual


It must be borne in mind at all times that Hip is not just a language but an attitude — indeed, a whole culture unto itself. If some of the definitions in the dictionary seem inadequate or puzzling to you please remember that the true hipster has the Taoists aversion to pinning down the changing world. To define something completely is to embalm it intellectually. Subtlety of perception is hip — as when a jazz musician blows a particularly “wild” chord change and the hipster voices his appreciation by laughing quietly or murmuring “Oh, yeah!” But it is hipper to “dig” the change and forget it to do a post mortem analysis of “just what happened there, music-wise”.

The Scatter-Shot Theory of the HIP Communication:

In the English language, we have enormous difficulty with definition. There are entire branches of philosophy and logic devoted to little else but defining terms. Science had all but abandoned English as being too imprecise, preferring the language of numbers.

The language of Hip cleverly sidesteps this problem. Where in English we are concerned with communicating exactly what we want to convey and nothing else, the hipster is satisfied if what he says manages to *include* what he means. Imagine the difference between shooting a dime at twenty paces with a .22 rifle, and with a 40 gauge shotgun, and you will have a rough approximation of the difference between English and Hip.

Hip is a language of thundering generalities. It is more concerned with intense emotional states than with specific ideas, and in this respect can be said to be anti-intellectual.

About the HIP Vocabulary

It is not only difficult, but almost impossible to ascertain the exact meaning of many Hip words or expressions out of context. A change in the vocal inflection can change the meaning of a word to its own opposite. “Bad” can mean “good,” “straight” can mean “twisted,” etc. Depending on the context, the word “freak” may mean anything from “dangerous sex pervert” to “someone who likes ice cream.” “The Man” can mean either the police or the narcotics salesman. It pays to listen carefully. If, when talking to a hipster, you have no idea what he is telling you, it is usually safer to say “I’m hip”, or “It’s cool” than to ask him what he’s talking about.

Since Hip is such an emotional language, often hipsters will use words with cavalier disregard for their actual meaning, retaining only their emotional connotation. In this wise, the late Lord Buckley once described an annoying fog in Chicago as “an illiterate cruddy amaze on the streets”.

“Cool” in Theory and Practice:

Hipsters are much maligned by the unknowing public for being “cool”. It should be pointed out, however, that “cool”, when used in the Hip sense, does *not* mean withdrawn, cold, and non-reacting. Cool refers to an attitude which might best be described as poised and self possessed, or unruffled. When a hipster “blows his cool,” he loses his poise and succumbs to hysteria, anger, or the prevailing mood of the moment.

A hipster’s “cool” is often spoken of as a possession — perhaps a hipster’s most cherished possession. One’s “cool” enables one to face life as it is and to accept graciously what it has to offer. “Cool” has several subsidiary meanings.

Cool it: Stop it, behave normally, change the subject, leave. “Cool it” is an urgent warning.
Cool yourself, or cool your brains: Relax, stop “coming on”.
It’s cool: It’s all right, or okay. “Thats cool with me”.
Be cool: Be careful.
Cool that stud: Get rid of him, shut him up.
Is he cool(?): Does he know whats happening? Will anything we do upset or shock him? Is he a cop?

“Uncool” refers to actions which are socially inappropriate, gauche, foolhardy, or dangerous. The following list may prove useful.

It is uncool to claim you used to room with Bird.
It is uncool to claim you have Bird’s axe.
It is even less cool to ask, “Who is Bird?”
It is uncool to nod on the street waiting for the light to change.
It is uncool to let anybody know that your uncle is a registered pharmacist.
It is uncool to buddy with a know fink.
It is uncool to ask, “Where’d you get it?”
It is uncool to let anybody use your place as a forwarding address for packages from Mexico.
It is uncool to wear shades after sunset — unless you should be wearing shades after sunset, in which case it is uncool to take them off.


It is possible that “cool” behavior can be carried to an extreme. One who is constantly preoccupied with remaining “cool” at all times and with “the cool” of his friends, begins to slip towards paranoia. The word “Hincty” is occasionally use to denote this state, but the term “paranoia” (or “paranoid”) has been adopted into the Hip Vocabulary from psychoanalytic terminolology. When every knock at the door, every footstep in the hall, every car parked across the street means “Police!”, a hipster’s “cool” may have blossomed into paranoia.

Politics and HIP:

Nowhere in the world is there less political activity or political consciousness than on the “Hip Scene,” with the possible exception of the Laotian Buddhists. Occasionally a voice will be raised in protest against police brutality in public parks, or in favor of legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana, or hospitalization rather than jail sentences for narcotics addicts, but these sporadic bursts of activity are rare. Perhaps this stems from the hipster’s basic distrust of authority in any form. Most hipsters believe, for example, that a person must have serious psychological problems in order to become a policeman.

It would be absurd to attempt to organize hipsters into anything resembling a pressure group. The single instance that comes to mind of political-action-in-concert will as an example. During the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago, there appeared on the floor of the convention hall an odd assortment of people carrying signs and placards reading “Independent Republicans For Stevenson” and “Draft Stevenson Now”. They were summarily ejected. The demonstration was, of course, a “put on”.

Metaphysics and Hip:

Hip, to the external observer, seems distinctly non-Western in its orientation. This is reflected in the fascination that Eastern mysticism holds for many hipsters, and in the fact that many members of Hip society are interested in Zen Buddhism, Yoga, the teachings of the Bagavad-Gita, Vedanta, and Islam. The teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky are highly regarded, as is Subud.

The Hipster, feeling disillusion with and disenfranchised by materialistic Western culture, supremely cynical about our accepted institutions and traditional idols, is forced to turn inward for his answers. “Dig yourself” is a Hip byword. Perhaps some of the methods are questionable; i.e. a too-literal interpretation of Rimbaud’s dictum, “To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that’s the point,” and perhaps these methods will never produce great art or a great body of literature. But the Hipster is not interested. He invests his energy in his life.

The concept of “dues” may be worth mentioning here. Many hipsters are musicians, and consequently, dues-paying union members, since a musician cannot perform professionally unless he is a paid-up member in full standing. Thus we get such Hip expressions as “That cat pays his dues” compliment for a good performer, or for someone who lives up to the responsibilities he has chosen for himself. The expression had broadened in meaning, however, to the point that it might be considered as the basis for a Hip Metaphysic.

“Dues” are the sacrifices that “a cat” makes to live as he wishes to live; “dues” are the automatic and impersonal punishments that accompany “goofs” and oversights. One hipster summed it up rather neatly, “Say you’re a bad, evil, rotten stud, man. You go around spreading badness and rottenness and evil. What do you expect to get back, man? Everybody treats you like a bad cat. But you don’t dig that, because nobody digs being treated like that, so you get back at them by treating them like they’re a bunch of bad cats for putting you down, which is what they put you down for in the first place. You dig where it’s at?

The dues for being a bad cat cat are being a bad cat. That’s all, what can I tell you?”

The Hangup:

It is possible to become “hung up” on almost any object by following the instructions below. We recommend this exercise to serious students of Hip.

Exercise: Choose an object. Any object but preferably one that is fairly interesting looking, at least for now. Pretend that your attention (focus on concentration) is a stream of water. Play this “stream” over the object, letting it trickle into crannies and recesses, and splash over flat surfaces. Soon you will begin to discover that the object is much more interesting than it was before, and previously overlooked, or taken for granted. If something distracts your attention from the object of your concentration, don’t force your concentration back to where it was, but investigate the object in relation to the distraction. Continue this exercise for at least 15 minutes. No matter how ridiculous or pointless this may sound, after a few repetitions of this exercise, you should be able to hang yourself up for hours.

Suggested Hangups:

Your hand.

Your foot.

Reach over the back of your head and feel one of your eyes from above and behind–upside down. Try to think of something you can’t remember.

Tune your television set to an empty channel and watch the specks. (This is “Channel X”.)

Complete this list: Ford Maddox Ford, Jerome K. Jerome, William Carlos Williams. . . .

Copy this figure:

Try squaring the circle.


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