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Couch Potato

Can you please pass the chips?

This post is the first post in a new series called Food Idioms. In our everyday lives, we use hundreds of expressions that relate to food. Leah tells us a bit about the history of how these phrases came to be.

When you have a lazy Sunday sitting around on the couch, remote control in hand, watching hours of non-stop TV, have you ever gotten the stink-eye from your spouse, your roommate or your mom and been called a “couch potato”?

At one point in our lives, whether it was for hours of Sunday Football or Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, we have probably all been accused. Does it mean you eat potatoes while sitting on a couch? I suppose it could – and I won’t argue that there are many good ways to enjoy a potato, including those delicious, thinly-sliced, deep fried potatoes more commonly known as chips, which taste even better sitting on a couch – however, we generally know this term to refer to someone who is lazy, or maybe less harshly, lazing.

The Urban Dictionary coins this term as “someone who lies on the sofa every spare moment of his/her life, watching television and normally eating,” and this phrase has been used by everyone from the editors at Forbes Magazine to Homer Simpson. But where did it come from? And whose idea was it to come up with a term that ruins my lazy Sundays the minute my mother-in-law walks in the door?

Although the origins are largely unknown, according to legend and the Examiner the first known use of this term happened in July of 1976 from a man by the name of Tom Iacino in Pasadena, California. Mr. Iacino was a member of a group that celebrated loafing in front of the television and eating junk food – a club that was established to make a mockery of the current trends of eating healthy and exercising. The group was conveniently called the “boob tubers” in reference to the slang term for television. Iacino took this a bit further, relating a “tuber” to a potato, then thinking of where that potato might sit to watch TV,  the term “couch potato” was born.

This expression’s rise to fame didn’t end there as fellow member of the group, Robert Armstrong, took the term a step further still. He drew cartoon characters of a potato sitting on a couch to watch TV. He then registered a Trademark, established a club called the Couch Potatoes and sold merchandise depicting the character.

With the increasing popularity of television throughout the 1980’s, the invention of the remote control and accessible junk food snacks, the term couch potato will likely stay true to its name and not go anywhere, anytime soon.

CC image courtesy of oddsock on Flickr

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