SPROUTING WORDS

couch potato noun

In slang, a person who spends leisure time passively (for example by sitting watching television or videos), eats junk food, and takes little or no physical exercise.

Formed by compounding; a person with the physical shape of a potato who spends as much time as possible slouching on the couch. The original humorous coinage by Californian Tom Iacino relied on a pun: because of their love of continuous viewing of the television (known in US slang as the boob tube, unlike British slang, which uses the term for a skimpy stretch bodice), these people had formerly been called boob tubers; for their emblem, cartoonist Robert Armstrong therefore drew the best known tuber - a potato - reclining on a couch watching TV, formed a club called The Couch Potatoes, and later went on to register the term as a trade mark.

The US trade mark registration for the term couch potato claims that it was first used on 15 July 1976. Robert Armstrong (who is really responsible for popularizing the term and maintaining the cult) has claimed that this coinage was not his, attributing it instead to Tom Iacino, another `Elder' of the cult, who used it when asking to speak to a fellow Elder (known only as `The Hallidonian') on the telephone. The Couch Potatoes club which Armstrong formed aimed to raise the self-esteem of tubers, and pro vided a counterbalance to the cult of physical fitness which was by then a dominant influence in American society.... however, a National Children and Youth Fitness Study carried out in the US in 1987 made it clear that it was not to be officially condoned, criticizing parents for not getting children to take outdoor exercise and for raising a nation of couch potatoes. The couch potato concept and merchandising reached the UK in the late eighties, although the lifestyle had existed without a name for some t ime before that.

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