I happened to read an old article about the mechanics of “human Love” which appeared in TIME magazine (Jan. 28, 2008) under the title, “The science of romance: Why we love,” and was drawn to the word, “Chemical Mickey” in the following sentence:

“At the moment of a kiss, there's a rich and complicated exchange of postural, physical and chemical information," says (psychologist Gordon) Gallup. "There are hardwired mechanisms that process all this. What's more, every kiss may also carry a chemical Mickey, slipped in by the male. Though testosterone is found in higher concentrations in men than in women, it is present in both genders and is critical in maintaining arousal states.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1704672,00.html

I noticed that ABC News (Jan. 1, 2008) also picked up the similar research by incorporating the same word into the news;

“The man is sort of slipping a chemical mickey that acts as an aphrodisiac on the woman," Kluger said. That kiss could potentially determine whether a couple's genes are compatible enough to produce a healthy offspring.”


What does “Chemical Mickey” mean? Is the word, Mickey used as a metonym of a mysterious or powerful substance?

  • 2
    It is a very strange thing to say, as all Mickeys are chemical, not in the sense of "everything made of chemicals", but in the stronger sense of synthetic and artificial (and, moreover, biological signals are not).
    – Lucas
    Jul 4, 2013 at 2:31

2 Answers 2


Ordinarily, mickey in the context of someone being drugged refers to a “a beverage, usually alcoholic, that has been drugged”, ie, a Mickey Finn. Wiktionary says the term is “Probably named for the manager and bartender of a Chicago establishment, the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant, which operated from 1896 to 1903, who was accused of using "knockout drops" to incapacitate and rob some of his customers”.

The article's form, “a chemical mickey”, probably was intended to suggest a pheromonal or hormonal effect, as opposed to the effect of an actual drink.


It's actually a form of slipping a mickey. From dictionary.com:

to secretly put a Mickey Finn in someone's alcoholic drink. (This drug either makes the victim pass out or causes immediate diarrhea.) : Somebody slipped Marlowe a Mickey and sent him into action.

In this case, it means that the kiss carries a chemical pheromone that affects the behavior of the other individual in a manner similar to a drug. Unlike the original phrase, it does not imply intentionality.

  • p.w.s.g, so "someone had slipped a mickey in their tea" could be wrong because tea doesn't carry chemical pheromone?
    – user19148
    Jul 3, 2013 at 22:12
  • 1
    @Carlo_R. There's nothing wrong with someone had slipped a mickey in their tea--it would mean surreptitiously passing a drug into their drink. My point is that in this context slipping a chemical mickey is referring to pheremones.
    – p.s.w.g
    Jul 3, 2013 at 22:14
  • I'm more curious about what sort of action Marlowe was sent into! Whoever wrote that example sentence didn't have a very good grasp on the concept, I think - I believe it should have been Somebody slipped Marlowe a Mickey and put him out of action.
    – MT_Head
    Jul 3, 2013 at 22:21
  • @MT_Head In a broader context, I believe the phase can be used to describe a drug that induces any kind of action the target would not otherwise do, but all the references I found cited this narrow meaning.
    – p.s.w.g
    Jul 3, 2013 at 22:34
  • I guess, but I've mostly heard it in the knockout context - possibly with memory loss. I don't think I've heard of a 'Mickey' that causes diarrhea; not saying that's wrong, just a much less common usage.
    – hunter2
    Jul 5, 2013 at 9:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.