Last week I wrote about how I decided to root for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII not out of loyalty to the town, the State of Kansas, or the color red but because of Harrison Butker, the traditional Roman Catholic altar server who ended up kicking the game-winning field goal (see The Latin Mass Kicker). A third of the post had to do with my guilt over not siding with the Philadelphia Eagles given the time I spent in Pennsylvania. The mea culpas ran from scrapple and funnel cakes to the Mummers and Mennonites. And, of course, my girlfriend.
I bring up “Blexcroid” now, because of a question from a researcher who came across the word in reference to Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, creator of characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man. Oddly enough, the only other place the researcher found the word was with my photo in the 1978 Ursinus College yearbook.
I am not sure where Lee heard of Blexcroid or how he used it. I discovered it as an undergraduate student at Ursinus, which is located northwest of Philadelphia. It appeared on stickers in various, unexpected places; a sort of seventies version of Kilroy, that ubiquitous character from the forties. Unlike Kilroy, however, which GIs used like a graffiti tag, confounding both Stalin and Hitler (Stalin saw it in the VIP bathroom at the Pottsdam Conference), Blexcroid had no specific meaning. Or, rather, its meaning changed depending on the speaker. A good deal of the time it had no meaning at all.
I remember a few things about Blexcroid from back then:
- It was regional, showing up in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. It was kind of like apple butter that way. If I had used it back in New York, people probably would have assumed it was a sequel to Animal House (1978).
- It was not used by townspeople (i.e., “townies”) but college students and then only certain kinds of students. I would describe them as cool, less studious, pot smoking, long haired, more interested in Van Halen than Van Cliburn.
- Blexcroid did not mean anything in the etymological sense but was a made-up word connoting resistance, subculture, trickery, and knavery, all of which ran counter to the bourgeois world of Philadelphia bankers and Allentown dentists that the college had prepared us for.
- Blexcroid was connected loosely to garage bands, heavy metal, and dark colors as in a pre-Goth look.
Blexcroid was not serious. It was not part of an organized effort to undermine “the man.” We were much too polite for that, having grown up either in professional homes struggling to maintain their status or working class ones fighting to gain status. By the end of the seventies, economic conditions had gotten so bad that we were more concerned about interest rates and unemployment than covert military operations or regime change in South America. The revolutionary fervor of the late sixties had ended, moving underground into schools of education and emerging today as the woke movement, which is another story. My first job out of Ursinus was actually at a bank in Center City, Philadelphia (see The Dance).
Why did I include Blexcroid with my graduation photo? I think it was for no reason other than feeling the need to put something there. It sounded better than the usual clichés about believing in yourself and following your dreams or the ramblings of Bob Dylan and David Bowie. I still don’t get Dylan. And, honestly, those clichés confused and scared me at the same time.
“Blexcroid” seemed like the perfect mystery word that reflected my time in school and my anxiety about the future. This, at a time when I owned a yellow, polyester leisure suit. I looked like a human canary. So who knew what the future had in store? I thought I could hide behind Blexcroid until I figured things out. I didn’t realize back then that figuring things out would take the rest of my life. Maybe I could have written that.
Image credits: Orlando García, Emma Fabbri, Marc Newberry, Sam Fry, Nathan Dumlao, George Pagan III. Source for Kilroy taken from “Kilroy was here,” Wikipedia. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”
As you know, Robert, I spent 13 enjoyable years teaching at Ursinus after the conclusion of my “real” 30-year career in the chemical industry. I can’t say I ever heard the word “Blexcroid” in my years there.
I was a fairly popular instructor, but I’m sure my students would agree that, knowing Blexcroid or not, I was hardly “cool, less studious, pot smoking, long haired, more interested in Van Halen than Van Cliburn”.
But they seemed to learn from my courses, and I am in touch with many of them as they build their own careers. It was a gratifying time in my life.
It’s been a few years since I’ve read one of your posts, but of course I couldn’t resist the forever-numinous word from the ever-receding Seventies—“Blexcroid.” I too, thought it was a nonsense word like “bandersnatch” that originated with our classmate, Rick Morris. Touring the campus for the first time in many decades with Rick last summer, he revealed a more prosaic etymology—though the word remains numinous to me in its chaos magic style of appropriation. We revisited the Wismer Dining Hall, and Rick reminded me that unlike a modern college, we had dinners scheduled for a particular time. We would line up inside the building where there were rolling metal shutters keeping us from entering the flying-saucer-like inner sanctum of the cafeteria. The brand name of the rolling shutters was “Blexcroid.”
Ah, I did not know that or at least I forgot. Thank you for that, Jonathan. I do remember linen napkins.