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Couch potato 'ruins spud's image'

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Dieticians say potatoes are low in fat and high in Vitamin C.

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Great Britain
Diet

LONDON, England -- Farmers are campaigning to remove from dictionaries the term "couch potato" which they say makes the vegetable seem unhealthy and is bad for its image.

The British Potato Council wants the expression stripped from the Oxford English Dictionary and replaced in everyday speech with the term "couch slouch."

Groups of demonstrators were on Monday planning to stage protests outside the Oxford University Press offices and in London's Parliament Square.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term "couch potato" started life as American slang.

It means: "A person who spends leisure time passively or idly sitting around, especially watching television or video tapes."

Kathryn Race, head of marketing at the British Potato Council which represents some 4,000 growers and processors, said the group had written to the Oxford English Dictionary stating its objections but had not yet had a response.

"We are trying to get rid of the image that potatoes are bad for you," she told the Press Association.

"The potato has had its knocks in the past. Of course it is not the Oxford English Dictionary's fault but we want to use another term than couch potato because potatoes are inherently healthy."

The council says dieticians back the campaign because the vegetable is low in fat and high in vitamin C. Supporting the campaign, celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson said the vegetable was 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 a filling," he told PA.

John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, said the term couch potato was first included in 1993. He said: "When people blame words they are actually blaming the society that uses them. Dictionaries just reflect the words that society uses."

Simpson said words were never taken out of the full-length dictionary, which includes about 650,000 words contained in 20 volumes. But little-used words are removed from the smaller dictionaries to make way for newer ones. "If society stops using words then they get taken out of the smaller dictionaries," he added.

The first known recorded use of the expression "couch potato" was in a 1979 Los Angeles Times article, Simpson said.

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