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A people's history of 'teabag'

The Week and Tommy Christopher do the hard and amusing work of figuring out how and when the term "teabag" first surfaced in our political parlance and how and when it became an insult. (One activist I talked to yesterday compared it to the "n-word.")

The answer to the first question really is indisputable -- the word was first used by the tea party movement itself. In some cases it was by people who did not know that "teabag" is also a sexual term.* In other cases, protesters knew that the term was sexual and hurled it at the Democrats. Here, for example, is a photo I took in February 2009.

It was clear to me at the time that the protester was making a sexual pun. How else does this make sense? The Week helpfully remembers the next link in the chain, the March 2009 campaign by Americans for Prosperity to send tea bags to members of Congress. That, by every indication, was guileless, as was the decision by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) to dangle tea bags on Fox News.

Picture 23.png

The turning point, as The Week points out, came when MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and CNN's Anderson Cooper started making "teabag" jokes. And that was the start of tea partyers viewing the term as a snooty slur by coastal elitists. That's why I don't use it, even though "---bagger" rolls off the tongue easier than "----partyer."

*Just look it up, although I'd point out that it is not a technique particular to any particular sexual orientation.

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By David Weigel  |  May 6, 2010; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Tea Party  | Tags: Anderson Cooper, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, Tea Party movement, Tea bag, United States Congress  
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