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In Japan, the word groovy has been used to mean "fashionable and trendy" as an imported English word, which I think, doesn’t go far from the definition, "fashionable, attractive and interesting" in OALD.

However, use of groovy in the recent New York Times article Four Dudes and a Table seems to me to have a different nuance from “fashionable and attractive”:

Ron Paul ... has a new TV ad, directed at the youth of America, which begins with a picture of Rick Santorum. “Is this dude serious?” the announcer demands. “Fiscal conservative? Really?”

The ad then goes on to say that Santorum’s votes to raise the debt ceiling were “not groovy.” I am not an absolute expert on the speech patterns of young people, but I am feeling pretty confident that they do not use the word “groovy.” ...

Take your pick, Republican primary voters. If neither [Romney nor Santorum] works for you, there’s always Newt. Or Ron Paul. Some choice, dudes. Not groovy.

What does groovy in "Santorum’s votes to raise the debt ceiling were “not groovy”" exactly mean?

Are the meanings of groovy in "Santorum’s votes to raise the debt ceiling were “not groovy”" and in "Some choice, dudes. Not groovy," the same?

Is the word groovy really obsolete among the youth of America today as the author claims? If so, why is Ron Paul using a word that no longer gets across (even if in the negative sense) with the younger segment of voters in his commercial directed to them?

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Per your previous question about stuck in a rut/groove, this slang use of "groovy" relates to vinyl records, and is hopelessly outdated today. Younger people tend to be disparaging of their parents' slang - it was probably used specifically to elicit a "sotto voce" negative reaction (many younger people will know the term, but will think it's silly). –  FumbleFingers Feb 24 '12 at 14:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Groovy can also simply mean "good." It's a lot like "cool:" it can mean almost anything, almost always in a positive way. So translate it as "raising the debt ceiling is not good".

I personally use "groovy" occasionally (I'm 30, so not "youth" by most measures), but I'm aware that it's a bit of an eccentricity on my part. I picked it up from a 40-ish California hippie several years ago, and I don't think I've ever heard it used by anyone younger than that, so it's probably virtually obsolete in gen Y. < /anecdotal-evidence>

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Corks! I started college in the early 70's, and groovy was already "old school" slang by then in the UK. I doubt I've heard it used other than facetiously since the late 70s. –  FumbleFingers Feb 24 '12 at 14:21

Groovy is very much a dated word in the US; the word is seen as a throwback to the 60's or 70's. What the ad actually says is that Santorum voted for the biggest entitlement increase "since the 60's---not groovy". The word is being used in the ad to complement the reference to the 60's.

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There is also a tie-dye background as this is being said, another 60s reference. –  Sam Feb 24 '12 at 3:04

I'm not sure exactly what's being asked here, but:

Groovy as a slang term meaning "fashionable, attractive and interesting" is what you would called "dated slang". People are aware of its existence and meaning, but it's out-of-date. Therefore, intentionally using dated slang would tend to be a way to say that someone is "out of touch".

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"Wild thing / you make my heart sing / you make everything groovy..." So long as radio stations play The Troggs, we'll always remember the word groovy. But, like nohat says, what was once a very cool and hip word is now indeed almost comically dated. –  J.R. Feb 24 '12 at 2:39

Both "groovy" and "dude" are slang terms which achieved wide popularity from the late 60s to early 70s as part of the hippie culture. And like hippie culture itself to a degree, the term "dude" came back into fashion in the '90s and still maintains currency. I don't think "groovy" ever made such a comeback, though.

So I think nohat's answer, that "groovy" is deliberately chosen as a dated expression, correctly explains the ad's choice of the word.

In addition, though, the informal usage "not [slang word for good]" is itself a way to say "emphatically not good/not acceptable", without necessarily retaining the particular sense of "goodness" in the word. For example:

"Hey dude, talking to a girl like that is not cool."

This does not mean merely that you are not good-looking and fashionable (which is what cool means), it means you are rude, inconsiderate, and many other forms of bad, going far beyond lacking coolness.

There's also the expression "not kosher", meaning "not allowed" or "against the rules", and it can be applied to things that have nothing to do with Jewish dietary rules.

So "not groovy" does not just mean lacking fashionability or trendiness, it means just plain bad, and can apply even to economic policy.

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