Is sheeple a word?

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Is sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Apr 22, 2004 6:01 am

Just having a discussion about if sheeple is a word or not.

So is sheeple a word?

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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 6:15 am

did you use the research link available through this site?
Reply from christine Gilpatrick (New Windsor - U.S.A.)
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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 6:29 am

Ive been looking and still havent found, so thats why I asked. So does anyone know? Please Help? =)

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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 6:44 am

It would help if you gave us an example of how the "word" is used. I've never heard of it, but perhaps if you gave the context it would help jog someone's memory.
Reply from K Allen Griffy (Springfield, IL - U.S.A.)
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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 6:58 am

From the Buzzword Compliant Dictionary at
sheeple: Have you felt herded lately? Do you blindly go where everyone else is going? Sheeple are folks who follow like sheep. There's been a lot of them in the stock market lately.
From The Sheeple Chasers at
The wolf cares not how many sheep there are in a flock for they are all sheep. However, in the Basque region of northern Spain, shepherds have a dog that looks just like a sheep from a distance. When the wolf attacks a Basque flock that dog kills the wolf. Then he eats the wolf. We may appear to be sheep. In fact, some government agencies laugh at us and refer to we citizens as "sheeple" because we are so subservient to them.
Plenty of powerful people like to think of the public this way, a nation of Teletubbies who need to be told what matters. But to be polite, they call us soccer mom, Joe Six-pack, the common man, consumers, viewers or the average person.
With the patronizing tone and context, they might as well say Teletubbies. Or they could switch to the hip new term for a malleable public that is supposedly unaware of the world around them: sheeple.
--Susan Nielsen, "Power to the Sheeple; Smarter Than You Think," The Seattle Times

Reply from Susumu Enomoto (Shiraokamachi - Japan)
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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 7:13 am

Thanks, so, since its more of slang than anything, does that mean 'sheeple' actually constitutes as a 'real' word?

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Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 22, 2004 7:27 am

It is in fairly frequent use in conservative and Vast Right Wing Majority circles. It is not in use by the Vast Left Wing Majority. Will it show up in a dictionary? Who knows? Lemming is a synonym. *G*
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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Re: Is Sheeple a word?

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:53 am

The following discussion is a SHEEPLE update. It should be noted that the 2004 date on the above postings is incorrect. During a site update in 2004, a data transfer glitch caused all posting dates earlier than that year to receive a 2004 timestamp. I’m guessing that the actual date of the postings was around 2000.
<2013 “The ad clearly violates the NFL’s ban on Super Bowl ads for ‘firearms, ammunition, or other weapons.’ . . . But in the end, the NFL’s refusal to air the commercial is meaningless. . . In fact, Daniel Defense [[a gun manufacturer]] may have tried to buy Super Bowl time expecting that the ad would be banned; in the subculture of ‘gun nuts,’ disapproval by powerful forces is a ‘badge of honor.’ The companies forbidden AR-15 instantly became a ‘status object, a talisman’ signifying defiance of ‘the socialist multiculti sheeple.’ As the banned ad now goes viral on the Internet, it will sell more rifles to dudes in camouflage than a $4 million Super Bowl spot ever would.”—The Week, 20 December, page 15>
My first reaction to ‘multiculti sheeple’ was that it was a typo. But, when I did a Google search, sheeple received about 700,000 hits (at my space-time coordinates), all of which I astutely reasoned couldn’t have been typos. Incidentally, ‘multiculti’ (1990) is short for ‘multicultural.’

The answer to the title of this posting, “Is sheeple a word?”, a la 2000, is, it depends on how you define ‘word.’ And the answer to Leif Thorvaldson’s question, “Will it show up in a dictionary? Who knows?” is yes.

Today, sheeple appears in several dictionaries I checked including the OED. However, what surprised me is the number of dictionaries in which it was not listed (e.g. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Merriam-Webster Online, American Heritage Dictionary, . . .).

SHEEPLE noun, Originally and mainly U.S., considered by some to be slang [1945 and still in use] (blend of sheep and people)

1) depreciative: People likened to sheep in being docile, foolish, or impressionable. [added to the Oxford English Dictionary in September 2010]

2) A portmanteau of ‘sheep’ and ‘people.’ The term highlights the herd behavior of people by likening them to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. (Wikipedia)

3) People who are meek, easily persuaded, and tend to follow the crowd. (, 2002) [Although sheeple had been around for several years, it wasn’t until 2002 that it appeared in sufficient numbers for Word Spy to list it as a ‘new word.’]

I think it’s interesting to look at the Google Ngram, keeping in mind the caveats: 1) It only refers to a word’s appearances in the Google Book Corpus. 2) Don’t pay too much heed to exact results (the whole may be less than the sum of its parts, etc.), but instead look at general trends. For the all English sheeple Ngram through 2008, look here.

There is a blip at the 1940-50s, which seems to correspond to the OED’s early appearances (see quotes below). Then, beginning in about 1980 the word worked its way out of the mud with a steady sharp rise – with enough presence in 2002 to be noticed by Word Spy as a new word – continuing that sharp rise into 2008.

An Ngram for British English produced nada!! So, I guess this might be an indication that this is mostly an American expression. And again I noticed that in 2008 American English had more hits than all English – the whole is less than the sum of its parts. (>:)

They following are quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1945 “The People, as ever (I spell it ‘Sheeple’), will stand anything.”—The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, March, page 84/1>

<1949 “With so many ‘sheeple’ in this country it is little wonder that mountebanks in many fields of endeavor have thrived and grown fat.”—Old Hokum Bucket by E. Rogers, ix. page 212>

<1981 “The worst tax of all is ‘inflation’, the word that is used to try and pacify the ‘sheeple’.”—The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), 18 July, psge c1/1>

<1984 “This is the home of Barbara Anderson and the headquarters of her American Opinion Bookstore. The store, in a dusty room behind dusty curtains near her front door, stocks about 500 right-wing tracts . . . Mrs. Anderson begins every book sale with a lecture, and in this instance she derides taxpayers in general as submissive ‘sheep people’ — or ‘sheeple’ for short.”—Wall Street Journal, 27 February> [[Note: In 2002, Word Spy listed this quote as being the earliest appearance in print. Wikipedia, failing to check the OED, also lists this as the first in print.]]

<1997 “If Paul Allen [[Microsoft]] will spend $20 million to buy this team, how much do you think he will spend on propaganda to get a yes vote from the sheeple?”—The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), 26 April>

<2002 “Speaker Finneran informed his sheeple, I mean people, of their impending ‘voluntary’ pay cuts at a caucus Wednesday afternoon.”—Boston Herald (Massachusetts),
1 March>

<2006 “A lightning rod in the tempest surrounding 9/11 conspiracy theories, University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett Sunday divided the public into ‘sheeple,’ those who believe the official version of events, and TMMs, those who subscribe to the truth movement.’”—The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), 2 October>

<2010 “But once the Tuesday filing deadline passes, the sheeple in the House can get back to the only game they really understand - rubber-stamping huge tax increases to keep their hack friends and relatives on the payroll.”—Boston Herald (Massachusetts), 25 April>

<2013 “The radio talk market is dominated by outspoken political conservatives lobbing verbal grenades at big government, silly liberals, backstabbing Republicans-in-name-only, the lamestream media and the pathetic sheeple who blindly follow all of the preceding.”—The Washington Times (D.C.), 4 February>

Ken – December 20, 2013

Re: Is sheeple a word?

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:22 am

Thank you Ken.

It's fascinating to see a modern - er, word? protoword? word candidate? - making progress towards - er, acceptability? inclusion in the lexicon (whatever that is)? The lack of an agreed definition for 'word' is rather unnerving, if understandable. But your etymology-in-action study here is definitive proof that English is living and active. Doubtless British sheeple start adopting the American usage en masse soon.

I hope you have a good Christmas and New Year.

Re: Is sheeple a word?

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Dec 21, 2013 10:01 am

Ken Greenwald wrote:An Ngram for British English produced nada!!
Consistent with the lack of British English Ngram hits, I'm pretty sure I've never yet heard sheeple being used in the UK. But then, British politics is not quite as vitriolically partisan as the American variety, nor yet quite as broken.

The remark by the now-deceased Leif Thorvaldson about the term being regularly used by the conservative right wing here in the USA seems pretty much on the mark, at least in terms of my own observation. (And he ought to know, since he was a dyed-in-the-wool denizen of that political outpost.) The word was in frequent use in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was President of the USA and the object of much scorn and derision, especially in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The label sheeple was then routinely being applied to his defenders and supporters by right-wing partisans, and continues to be common currency in conservative denunciations of the followers of President Obama1.

However, it is my impression that sheeple is often now also applied by the opposite side to extreme conservatives, especially to those who parrot the talking points of Fox News, right-wing anger radio and similar noise-making vessels. (It does seem particularly appropriate as a descriptor for those right-wingers belonging to 'the 99%' whose politics are effectively in opposition to their own interests.)

Nevertheless, to the extent that using sheeple and other derogatory epithets for one's opponents degrades the tone of political debate and discourse, such terms are probably best avoided by anyone who prefers their politics constructive. (And yes, multiculti is a disparaging term in the lexicon of the extreme right in this country, being in effect the adjectival equivalent of 'non-white', 'immigrant' or 'advocating on behalf of minority communities'.)

Regarding the broader topic of uncivil social and political attitudes and their corrosive effects on personal relationships, I recently ran across this sobering article on the Daily Kos website; the comments from its readers (many of whom themselves write very eloquently) are at least as instructive as the article itself.

1 It may be noted that American politics as a whole sits far farther to the right than does mainstream European politics; in terms of the current British political spectrum, President Obama occupies approximately the same place as David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister.
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Re: Is sheeple a word?

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:12 am

.. here is a little poem about sheeple.. and even a magazine

.. it was interesting when I surveyed the Chrissy crowd at home .. I had heard sheeple and knew what it meant but nobody else had heard it but it was easy for them to tell me what it did mean ..

.. and this article in The Republican that begins >>
Lo and behold, just when I thought the majority of minions running amok around this country were burying their heads in sand like an obedient Obama ostrich, new statistics appear to indicate that the sheeple are starting to get smarter.
.. and a blog called The Daily Sheeple ..

.. and just as a final word you can take The Sheeple Quiz to determine once and for all where you sit .. on the fence so to speak ..

WoZ who sees himself more as a bell wether
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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