If I knew then what I know now I would have gotten a Copyright on this term.

When we thought it up, we thought it would be an inside joke to replace “creeker” about low class people.  Now, 30 years later it is not uncommon to hear this term bandied about.

I did a lot of research for this post.  I typed in “Origin Low Rent” in google and checked the first result.

According to  the American Heritage Dictionary gives three definitions  –

  1. adjective Informal Having inexpensive rent: a low-rent apartment.
  2. adjective Informal Of low social status or moral character: “Steve Buscemi … may play low-rent, amoral types—hit men, weasels, snivelers—but … he’s more complicated than that” (Richard Leiby).
  3. adjective Informal Lacking taste or refinement: a low-rent television drama.

Interestingly there is no etymology or origin listed.  BECAUSE MY WIFE AND I INVENTED IT!!!  At least the usage under definitions 2 and 3.  I am not trying to say I invented the concept of inexpensive rent when somone is talking about their monthly rental expense.

I remember it like it was 10 years ago.  We were living in our first apartment.  We had friends over for a Dazed and Confused type of evening and had been watching the Sunday Night Movie of The Week – Airport ’77.  The one with Lee Grant, Jack Lemon and Brenda Vaccaro where they have to escape from the plane that has crashed underwater.

This being 1980 there was no cable tv in the city of Tampa yet.  There was cable outside the city limits where our parents lived which got you TBS from Atlanta, WGN from Chicago and if you paid extra, HBO.  This meant we had rabbit ears and that Sunday night late night TV was BAAAD.

We somehow ended up watching what I later came to realize was PTL Club.  Now remember we were Dazed and Confused and this was the first time I had ever seen Tammy Faye Bakker.  We made so much fun of her.  Her hair, her accent, her clothes and of course the makeup.  We decided the term to best describe her was “LOW RENT” (see definition #3).   We must have said it at least 300 times that night – we were so witty.

Over the years we used definitions 2 and 3 interchangably as appropriate.  Our friends and family adopted the saying but it was a few years ago that we saw it start creeping in to pop culture references.  The most recent occurence was by comedian Josh Wolf on one of his appearances on the Chelsea Lately roundtable on E!.  Oh, he was spouting it off like it was something he invented.

I want my Royalties.

Or at least an acknowledgement on the etymologies section of

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UPDATE:  I HAVE BEEN ADVISED BY TWITTER USER @MORROWLAND OF THE FOLLOWING – “Bette Midler was usin’ “low-rent” in her nightclub/concert shows in the 70’s. and then every gay in NYC used it too.”  So I guess the title of this blog should be “I Subconciously Stole The Term “Low Rent” from Bette Midler in 1980″.   So I have put strikethroughs in key spots and posted this update.  Thank you to Loni Love for retweeting this blog so I could be set straight. – 1/4/09

70's Creeker Fashion

Growing up in the 70’s the ultimate insult in my neighborhood was not somebody saying “your momma” which was when “your momma” first became fashionable as a putdown and became part of a joke as in “your momma is so fat that she…” (this of course evolved in to “yo Mama” jokes).  No the ultimate insult in my neighborhood was if someone called you a – 


In general, the term “creeker” was a term thrown around like we would use “low rent” today.  It referred to a lower socioeconomic section in our part of town along a waterway called Rocky Creek.  The “creekers” did little to enhance their reputation – as I remember one boy claimed in the 6th grade that when the creek flooded, their house floated off its foundation and they had to pick it up out of the street and put it back up on the concrete blocks.  Looking back, that story is a little suspect.  These houses had indoor plumbing (we lived in suburban Florida not rural Appalachia) these houses had to be attached by water, sewer and electrical lines which would have limited their movement during what were not major floods but basically the creek rising a few feet above its banks.  Being identified as a “creeker” had implications even with our parents.  My wife’s mother got enraged when at Christmas time charities would call them offering to deliver food and presents.  They had the same last name as a “creeker” family and lived on the same street but at the opposite end in their palatial 1500 s.f suburban tract home.  My Mother In Law wanted to make sure these charities knew – THEY WERE NOT A “CREEKER” FAMILY! 

The biggest reason that someone would be called a “creeker”  in my neighborhood was not to indicate you were poor.  It was to insinuate or point out that you had committed the ultimate fashion sin you could commit in the 1970’s. 


Basically pants that showed too much leg.  For the majority of the 70’s LOONG flaired pants were the fashion.  Not Bell Bottoms, that was the early 70’s.  Flaired jeans were the norm and they did look really bad when they were too short. 

Remember this was adolescence so we were going through growth spurts, parents may have been involved in the buying of clothes and bought them too short and made you wear them anyway plus clothes in the 70’s seemed to shrink a lot more than they do today. 

The fear of wearing highwaters and consequently being thought of as a “creeker” haunted me well into the late 90’s.  Part of this was because my true pants length is probably a 31 but try to buy regular men’s clothes in that length.  They are available in 30 or 32.  So I bought 32’s and wore my pants too long, often with frayed cuffs.  But to me frayed cuffs was much better than wearing highwater pants (yes I did sometimes have alterations done but that was a hassle) and even though no one where I then lived knew what the term meant, I of course did not want to be identified as a “creeker”. 

I finally had a breakthrough that solved this problem in the late 90’s – I found Ralph Lauren Polo.  Their 3o inch length pants are the PERFECT length.  Guess what, 90% of my clothes are now that brand because they are the right length.  No more frayed cuffs or alteration hassles.  Yes they cost a little more but they last forever and no one will say or think – “Look at that CREEKER”. 

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