Any recollection of "Joe Beatle" as an insult?
February 25, 2022 6:40 AM   Subscribe

In Peter Tork's screen test for The Monkees [video] [text (CW: slur)], when asked about reactions to his long hair, he relates having "Joe Beatle!" yelled at him on the street. It seems evident that "Joe" being a generic name, this is an insult expressing that the speaker has contempt for the target, an average person, imitating the Beatles' style, and expressing disapproval of the target's long hairstyle. But as this was an insult of a certain time and place, I can find little documentation of it, and I wonder if my fellow MeFites remember it being used.

What I can find:
This is the closest - the use of the name Joe Beatle in a word problem in a math textbook.
There are people with the given name Joe Beatle in the archives: 1, 2, 3
People on facebook named Joe Beatle
Someone by that name mentioned in an obit
An Instagram account titled Joe Beatle Collector
A drummer
A baseball player
posted by jocelmeow to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't remember "Joe Beatle" per se, but in those days, the squares / the straights often invoked the Beatles' name in a mocking way. For example, forehead acne was labelled "Beatle skin" on TV by some dermatologist. Ridiculous that I still remember that.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:40 AM on February 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't recall "Joe Beatle" specifically, but Joe [whatever] was sort of a catch-all name back then for any random person who was (or was trying to be) an example of the word you put after Joe.

Peanuts used it this way. Snoopy was "Joe Cool" when he was trying to seem, well, cool, but at various times he was also called (by himself and others) Joe Preppy, Joe Motocross, Joe Sandbagger (when he intentionally bowls a very low average to get a high handicap for a tournament), Joe Blackjack, and (in the early 90s, of course) Joe Grunge.
posted by Zonker at 8:44 AM on February 25, 2022 [11 favorites]

Relating back to Joe Blow.

My older brother, also of a certain time and place, tried to start a meme of Joe Face (for who we'd now call some rando) but it didn't take.
posted by Rash at 8:48 AM on February 25, 2022

Best answer: A forum post from 2006 cites the book "I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases" (1976), talking about the omnipresence of Joe and its compounds, answering a question about the phrase "not your average Joe":

"...from the 1920s through the 1940s 'Joe' began to rival 'John' as the popular name for any typical guy. ('Joe Zilch' was a 1920s term, 'Joe College' and 'Joe Blow' are from the 1930s, and 'a good Joe,' 'an ordinary Joe,' and 'Joe Doakes' reached their peak popularity in the 1940s.)."

I had heard of all of those except Joe Zilch.
posted by theatro at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2022 [6 favorites]

GI Joe
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:32 PM on February 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't think it was an insult more than identifying a mass-cloned trend by bored construction workers exposed to the public on the street, and not more serious than laughing at someone's pink poodle. Beatle wigs were sold at drug stores, as was their Nehru styled jackets and dolls. Semi-Long hair was tolerated by parents as a risky choice of imitating a girl, not a cultural sin, like drugs, by any stretch. It became more of a rural reaction when hippies appeared, which the Beatles were not. (Long hair for men is said to have gone out of fashion after the conservative hard hat riots in Boston, 1970, beating up Vietnam war protesters, because all of the hard hat construction workers had long hair by then). I note that parents would often make the offer to cut their kids longish hair, and when they refused, it was "suit yourself" followed by sighs. I think, however, that Tork was expressing comic annoyance of being identified as only a fan that grew his hair to imitate the Beatles.
posted by Brian B. at 1:09 PM on February 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think "Joe Beatles" per se was a super-common phrase, but it could have been used occasionally in the sense that Zonker and theatro mention, where "Joe X" is just a somewhat common way to refer to a person with characteristic X. So "Joe Beatles" just sort of pops out when they see someone who reminds them of the Beatles.

"Ah, look, if it isn't Joe Beatles."

Theatro mentions Joe College, which seems to have been quite common. Joe Student was sometimes used in a similar way.

The Free Dictionary lists a bunch of "Joe X" examples, including Joe Public, Joe Bloggs, Joe Average, Joe Citizen, and Joe Schmoe.

Joe Sixpack is another similar example - I can't find any examples from the 1960s or before (though possibly it existed - perhaps not in published sourcesm, though), but quite a few in the 1970s and by the 1990s usage had exploded.

Regarding Joe Zilch, you can read a fascinating history of the term on Fritinancy and even more history with many, many examples from Peter Jensen Brown.

(FYI the term "zilch" meaning zero or nothing comes from the name/term Joe Zilch - not the other way around.)

More on Zilch: Here is a 1923 cartoon featuring "Mr. Zilch" (warning! extremely racist) and an iconic McCarthy-era cartoon by Herblock that shows "new and important evidence" re: Joe Zilch's communist leanings.
posted by flug at 3:38 PM on February 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Does it bring this full circle to link to the Monkees piece Zilch, mentioned in one of flag’s links? The first speaker is Peter Tork.
posted by FencingGal at 6:30 PM on February 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Flug’s links. Sorry. (Autocorrect)
posted by FencingGal at 4:31 AM on February 26, 2022

Best answer: My father told me that in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War the English speaking troops used the name Joe as a pejorative way to refer to their French speaking peers. Canada has two National Languages, French and English, with accompanying racism and hostility, similar to the English and Spanish tensions in the US.

My father explained that a large proportion of the French Canadians were Catholic and followed the tradition of using Joseph for a middle name - Jean Joseph, Albert Joseph, Gaetan Joseph, Marc Joseph, Étienne Joseph.... If you had two Jérôme Tremblay working with you you couldn't use their middle names to tell them apart.

The French Canadians got stuck with the menial work and the English troops would complain if they got assigned similar work "That's a Joe job!" So in Canada at least when you used the word Joe to signify an Everyman back in the forties it was definitely pejorative. "Some Joe left his truck outside idling..."

Post war, Joe also had implications of being a dumb blue collar worker, possibly because people in that social class maintained the use of the name longer than more socially mobile people. From this you also get the term "Not your average Joe."

Prewar, there was another older tradition of naming all the girls Marie and all the boys Joseph, with their middle name being the one that differentiated them and in common use. So in one family you could have boys legally named Joseph Jean Bouchard, Joseph Pierre Bouchard, Joseph Louis Bouchard. Bureaucrats who insisted on enlistment forms being filled out with the legal name would end up with a serious headache. (You may be familiar with a few women's names that begin with Mary or Marie - Mary-Anne, Mary Kate, Mary Sue, Mary Jane, Mary Beth etc. This is also the result of that tradition.)

A final digression - The name Mary means "bitter". It appears that in Biblical time this name was chosen for two reasons, one was if the mother delivering the child had had a really bad time in labour, and the other was if the child turned out to be yet another daughter instead of a son. You didn't use it for a favourite kid. So the name of the Mother of Christ also indicated that she was low status - the lowly mother of a child born in a stable.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:35 AM on February 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

"That's a Joe job!" So in Canada at least when you used the word Joe to signify an Everyman back in the forties it was definitely pejorative.

Possibly semantic drift, but when I started working (Ontario in the eighties) a Joe job was a generic unskilled and loosely-defined job that anyone able-bodied could do with minimal training: pushing a broom, say, or helping move some furniture. I don’t recall a particular pejorative weight to it.

And although “Joe Beatle” is new to me, I’d say from context it is just “random man + some perceived characteristic”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on February 26, 2022

I wasn't alive during The Beatles' heyday, but, regrettably, I have a brain cell or two dedicated to Joe Millionaire.
posted by box at 7:01 AM on February 26, 2022

Average Joe. Not a slur, used often.
posted by Brian B. at 9:30 AM on February 26, 2022

Response by poster: Brian B., there is a slur present in the transcript of the screen test that is edited out of the video.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2022

« Older Categorizing how people think the world works?   |   looking for cartoon representations of Modern Art Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.