What To Call Tea Party People?

A request for journalistic guidance.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I need a journalistic wise man, or woman, to help me with a question of reportorial ethics. To wit: my use of the term "tea baggers."

In several recent posts here on Thomas Jefferson Street, critical and otherwise, I have used this particular bit of shorthand to describe the denizens of the Tea Party movement.

I do so because 1) they first made a name for themselves delivering thousands of tea bags to the Capitol, 2) that's what Fox News called them, 3) I think they're vain and presumptuous to appropriate the name from the patriots who took on King George and the British Empire and 4) it's easier to write "tea baggers" than "denizens of the Tea Party movement."

Now, it is true I had a sheltered, parochial school upbringing. But I have spent several decades since leaving Sister Mary Hyacinth's tender care, employed as a newspaperman, rummaging through police reports, edgy rock lyrics, avant-garde literature, and the cellars of American politics. I thought I pretty much knew every perverse epithet a person can hurl at another.

Yet somehow--and unlike several U.S. News readers (Who knew?)--I've missed out upon a particularly crude and obscure (albeit funny) use of the phrase "tea bagger," which I will leave you to discover via the magic of Google.

And so I am confronted by this question: Now that I know about this meaning of the phrase, am I obliged to stop using it?

Can't I just go on as before? Especially since it drives the denizens of the Tea Party movement crazy?

I just don't know.

Are you out there Okrent?

I need guidance.

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