A word thought to have been coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald
on the last page of The Great Gatsby
"But that's not a word, it's a misspelling of orgiastic!" you say. Well, the editor Edmund Wilson would have agreed with you. He changed it to "orgiastic" in the Scribner's Library edition of The Great Gatsby, published after Fitzgerald's death. And so it stayed for over half a century. However, in a new edition, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, who has built something of a career for himself as a Fitzgerald historian, it was changed back to "orgastic." As Bruccoli explains in his essay "Getting It Right: The Publishing Process and the Correction of Factual Errors - with Reference to The Great Gatsby":
... when Edmund Wilson edited The Great Gatsby in 1941 he emended the celebrated line "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future, that year by year recedes before us." He subsequently explained: "The word orgastic, on the last page I took to be Scott's mistake for orgiastic - he was very unreliable about words." But Fitzgerald's intention is certain. [Maxwell] Perkins had queried orgastic, and Fitzgerald replied that "it expresses exactly the intended ecstasy." Wilson's emendation to "orgiastic future" became the standard reading in later editions of the novel.
So if "orgastic" was intentional, what exactly does it mean? Presumably something between "orgasmic," which would have been too literal for Fitzgerald's purposes, and "orgiastic" which apparently didn't have quite the requisite ecstasy. Whatever it means, the fact of his having created a new word seems (at first) indisputable. A search on Google turns up some 1,500 web pages containing "orgastic", of which fewer than 300 also make reference to "Gatsby". This might lead one to the conclusion that his new word has found its way into the general lexicon. However, a glance over the remaining pages reveals that most of the word's usages have to do with the controversial writings of one Wilhelm Reich. Reich made use of the terms "Orgastic Impotence" and "Orgastic Potency" in his seminal work, "Die therapeutische Bedeutung des Genitallibidos," which launched the then-nascent and never-prominent field of orgonomy. This was an essay in German published, oddly enough, in 1924. Gatsby was first published in 1925.
So did they simultaneously and independently arrive at the same word or did one influence the other? Well, I can't say; here my limited research tool failed me. I was unable to find Reich's original essay, so I don't know if he actually used the word "orgastic" himself (I thought perhaps it was later applied in an English translation by someone using a word remembered from Gatsby.) For now, its true etymology remains shrouded in mystery (to me at least.) Also not forthcoming in all of this was an exact definition of "orgastic" itself, only "orgastic potency/impotence."
Orgonomy, which seems to be a bona fide field, with whole college departments and newsgroups devoted to it, is, according to www.orgone.org, "the scientific study of orgone (life energy) energy in living organisms, the earth, and the atmosphere as well as outer space. Orgone energy is best described as a pre-atomic (mass-free) energy. Its natural flow is vital to a healthy individual as well as life on earth." It hasn't gotten much attention, probably because Reich is largely considered to have been a crackpot.
You can read Bruccoli's essay at:
Some links related to Wilhelm Reich's work: