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Idiot box

Posted by ESC on February 27, 2008 at 15:48:

In Reply to: Idiot box posted by RRC on February 26, 2008 at 22:32:

: : : : : In Robert Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land' I found 'idiot box' as a reference to television. Lovely term and certainly it fits most American television. Does anyone know if this is original to Heinlein? If it is not I'd love to know more about the origin.

: : : : One reference dates "idiot box" back to around 1955. "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O, by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1997." This references Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition. The book was published in 1962, according to what I could find.

: : : "Idiot box" was a common term in the 1960s and '70s. The advent of flat-screen TVs now makes "idiot rectangle" more apropos, although I haven't heard anyone say it. ~rb (U.S.)

: : Google News archive search quickly pulls up at least two 1960 dates, one in newspaperarchives and one in New York Times archives.

: Google News Archive also has 7 from 1959, 3 from 1957 and 1 from 1956. You really have to enter in date ranges yourself, i.e. Other Dates. I have no idea how it comes up with those years to click on but it's not complete.

All this made me curious about "boob tube." I didn't find a date. Just this: "Television spawned the 'Television Generation' -- those born from 1949 on, who have lived under the pervasive influence of 'the tube,' the box,' or 'the boob tube,' some becoming couch potatoes in the process." "Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997). Page 348.