Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ottoman Tuber

The headline of this article in the "Australian" is Spitting chips over spud slur

LONDON: British farmers were gathering last night to demand "couch potato" be removed from the Oxford dictionary, saying the entry maligned the "inherently healthy" vegetable's image.

The protesters were assembling at Parliament Square, London, and outside the Oxford University Press office, but chief editor John Simpson protested: "When people blame words they are actually blaming the society that uses them."

Simpson said the term was first recorded in the Los Angeles Times in 1979.

I'm guessing that Simpson was not entirely paraphrased correctly, and that he was smart enough to say the 1979 use is the earliest recorded use found so far. It's almost certainly not the place where the term was coined. Newspapers almost never coin a phrase; being ahead of your readers can be deadly for circulation.

By coincidence or touch of a divine hand, I got an e-mail today from an etymology fan asking about this phrase -- "couch potato." He claims it was the title of episode no. 304 of the radio version of the "Our Miss Brooks"
series, which aired on August 28, 1955. He cites this as evidence.

But neither he nor I knows anything about the show, or how the phrase was used in it. Anyone have a clue?