British potato farmers become experts in linguistics - they want the term "couch potato" be banished from the Oxford English Dictionary. They argue that the description of slothful TV addicts harms the vegetable's image.
In their fight for the image of potato about 30 farmers took to the streets, demonstrating outside Parliament and carrying 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 wants the expression stripped from the dictionary and replaced in everyday speech with the term "couch slouch." Farmers believe that the phrase "couch potato" makes the vegetable seem unhealthy.
"The potato industry are fed up with the disservice that 'couch potato' does to our product when we have an inherently healthy product," said Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council, a body set up by the government to run advertising campaigns promoting potato consumption and research issues linked to the vegetable, according to AP.
Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson decided to join the demonstrators, because "the vegetable was one of Britain's favorite foods". "Life without potato is like a sandwich without a filling," says Thompson.
According to CNN, the council says dieticians back the campaign because the vegetable is low in fat and high in vitamin C.
The Potato council had written to the Oxford English Dictionary stating its objections but had not yet had a response.
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."
Simpson said he thinks the campaign is "a bit of consciousness raising" on the part of the British Potato Council. "I think the potato has taken a bit of a mashing after the Atkins diet," he said, referring to the low-carbohydrate food regime.
Simpson said words are never taken out of the full-length dictionary - which includes some 650,000 words contained in 20 volumes - although little-used terms are removed from the smaller dictionaries to make way for newer ones.
"The OED is a record of the English language from the earliest days," Simpson said. "If something's in there, it remains as part of the patchwork of the English language."
British Potato Concil's site informs, that its aim is to "improve competitiveness and increasing usage of GB potatoes". For example, it held 5 events at schools around the country, to gain some regional PR coverage for the potato.
BPC is not a pioneer in making politics with potato: 3 years ago an Egyptian company launched production of potato chips with the photo of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the package.