teabagger redux (was Re: Most Notable Quotations of 2010 (UNCLASSIFIED))

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Nov 22 23:19:26 UTC 2010

On Mon, Nov 22, 2010 at 5:52 PM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> My impression, which may be mistaken, is that "Teabagger" was introduced
> quite deliberately as a mocking designation.  The TEA party waved teabags at
> rallies. IIRC.
> I suspect that if TEA party people began to use it, many did so without
> knowledge of the then somewhat obscure sexual allusion.
> The fact is that knowingly calling TEA party people "teabaggers," unless
> that designation has been generally accepted within the TEA party itself, is
> even more crudely obnoxious than talking about "the Democrat Party."

It's not "generally accepted" by any means, but use of the verb
"teabag" and noun "teabagger" were present within the movement from
early on... perhaps until the salacious sense was made clear to
everyone when it began to be used mockingly.

Some of this material from early 2009 has been posted on ADS-L before,
but I'll gather it here for the sake of comprehensiveness...

Announcement of a Facebook event scheduled for 2/1/09:

"Tea Bag Party 2009! - Teabag the politicians!"

The Facebook wall has some back-and-forth about the double meaning of
"teabag" dated 1/26. Further discussion (from 1/27) in the comments
section here:


The domain name teabagcongress.com was registered on 2/12:


And here are some cites from late February:

"A lady named Eowyn on Giovanni's World suggested to mail tea-bags to
Congress. (Yup - Tea-Bag Congress.)" (2/21)
"And I LOVE the idea of “tea-bagging” as a punishment." (2/22)
"Congratulations to Rick Santelli and all his teabaggers!" (2/24)
"Tea Bag the Fools in D.C." (2/27)
Sign: "Tea Bag the Liberal Dems Before They Tea Bag You!!" (2/27)
"We journeyed to Portland to join in the teabagging fun!" (2/28)

So some within the movement may have used the term unknowingly, but
others were clued in to the sexual meaning from the beginning and
continued to use it playfully... until "teabagger" became an epithet
slung from the left.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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