Friday, November 01, 2013

Tater Tillers In a Tizzy Over Term

Erik caught a cold from his family this week, and is lying in his deathbed, pointing an accusing finger at all of them. As we await his return next week, we're reprinting this column from 2005.

In this age of Political Correctness and perpetual victimhood, someone somewhere is always complaining about certain words or phrases.

"I don't know if I feel comfortable with that term," is the battle cry of the PC whiner.

Then they express concern over the word "battle cry," because of its violent overtones.

And then wonder why they were picked on by playground bullies.

The latest PC whiners are complaining about couch potatoes.

British potato farmers are concerned that the term "couch potato" is doing irreparable harm to their tubby tuber. They're afraid the image of a slovenly fat guy slumped on his sofa, watching Baywatch reruns will have a negative impact on the image of a potato as a healthy food item. So they're demanding the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) strike the offending term from its pages.

This past June, 30 British tater tillers protested outside Parliament to publicize their efforts at reforming the image of their cash crop.

A couch potato is defined by the OED as "a person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes." A British potato farmer is defined as "a bunch of whiny crybabies with too much time on their hands."

"We are trying to get rid of the image that potatoes are bad for you," said Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council (official motto: "No, not a council for British potatoes.")

Actually, no one has ever said that potatoes are bad for you. Eating deep-fried slices of potatoes every day for 30 years is bad for you, but that's a different story.

The last time the British Potato Council made the news was after a much-publicized street brawl with the British Lightly Breaded and Deep Fried Fish Council, which caused fish and chip sales to plummet nearly 60%.

The protesting spud studs seem to have generated some strong interest in their cause. Not only has Nigel Evans, Member of Parliament for the Ribble Valley in Lancashire, offered legislation in support of the anti-couch potato movement, but Antony Worrall Thompon, an alleged British celebrity gourmet chef, was also at the protest. "Potatoes are one of the UK's favorite foods — not only are they healthy, they are versatile, convenient, and taste great too. Life without potato is like a sandwich without filling," he told reporters.

He then held his hand up to his face like a phone and said, "Call me, Food Network!"

Recliner manufacturers are also joining the protest movement. Earl Roosevelt, Chief Marketing Officer for Lazy Guy Recliners, actually ran across the street to speak to a reporter, pausing for a brief rest on the way.

"We don't see why couches should get all the attention. Reclining easy chairs have long been a place for people to kick back, relax, and spend evenings and weekends watching TV."

He then fell to the ground, gasping for breath.

Reporters also spoke with French potato farmer Jean-Claude Meunier. He was unconcerned about the entire affair, since the French term for couch potato is actually American.

"Hey, we're just glad you guys quit saying 'Freedom Fries,'" Meunier told a reporter from the Washington Post.

Race did concede, "Of course it is not the Oxford English Dictionary's fault, but we want to use another term because potatoes are healthy."

The campaign is also backed by nutritionists who say the vegetable is low-fat and is high in vitamin C. They also believe cookies are a "sometimes food," so I don't trust them.

"(Couch potato) is a very derogatory term, which potato growers find very offensive, and I can see why," said Worrall Thompson. "The potato is very healthy. It should be part of a balanced diet."

It's good to see British potato farmers tackling important issues, like whether the word potato is being used to mean someone who's slothful and lazy.

I'm glad the 4000 members of the British Potato Council think striking "couch potato" from the dictionary is so much more important to the planet than, say, getting large shipments of potatoes to Sudan and Ethiopia, or other parts of the world where people are starving.

Thank you, British Potato Council for making us aware of how damaging and harmful the term "couch potato" is, and not, you know, helping people who actually need it.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on

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