Tuesday, June 21, 2005

You Say Potato, I Say Slouch?

I regularly check the Web site www.tvtattle.com, which collects items and links about television from critics and reporters (including my work on occasion). One nifty recent entry was this, an Associated Press report about potato farmers objecting to the term ''couch potato'':

LONDON - British potato farmers demonstrated outside Parliament on Monday to publicize their bid to remove the term "couch potato" from the Oxford English Dictionary, arguing that the description of slothful TV addicts harms the vegetable's image.

The group of about 30 farmers carried signs that read "couch potato out" and "ban the term couch potato." A similar rally took place in Oxford, central England.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term "couch potato" as "a person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes."

The British Potato Council says the phrase makes the vegetable seem unhealthy. It wants the expression stripped from the dictionary and replaced in everyday speech with the term "couch slouch."


The demonstrators in London were joined by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, who said the vegetable was one of Britain's favorite foods.

"Not only are they healthy, they are versatile, convenient and taste great too. Life without potato is like a sandwich without a filling," he said.


John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, said the expression first appeared in the 1993 edition.

"Inclusion is based on currency of the term rather than on the basis of what people want us to put in the dictionary," he said. "When people blame words they are actually blaming the society that uses them."


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