The Old Hokum Bucket (1949), by Ernest Rogers
people likened to sheep in being docile, foolish, or impressionable
A blend of sheep and people, sheeple seems to have first been used by W. R. Anderson in his column Round About Radio, in The Musical Times (London) of March 1945. The columnist explains that a certain Mr T. B. Lawrence wrote to the BBC “complaining of the ‘intrusive r’ in an announcer’s speech”. The BBC’s reply was that this intrusive r “seems to be spreading amongst educated southern English speakers” and that “language is too dynamic for one to take too die-hard an attitude to such usage”. Anderson then writes:
On Mr. Lawrence’s answering briskly that this was defeatism, and the usage mere muddle-headedness, the further reply came: ‘. . . My attitude is, I hope, objective rather than defeatist.’ The writer added that one of the B.B.C.’s Linguistic Advisers ‘supports the view that inasmuch as announcers and other educated broadcasters come to the B.B.C. with certain speech habits already firmly implanted, we have to accept them as representative educated English speakers.’
Many questions come to mind. Who compels the B.B.C. to accept announcers with what decently-educated people (in matters of speech) believe to be bad habits? Is there some compulsion? If so, whence? If I had a Linguistic Adviser who supported the view set out above, I would sack him, as I would sack announcers unable to speak properly. They say nobody ever is sacked in the B.B.C. That seems to be a government habit, too. Perhaps we should be better served if there were some sacking. As to the B.B.C. attitude’s being ‘objective,’ there are other words: in political matters, ‘expediency’ is common; but I don’t think Mr. Lawrence’s round ‘defeatist’ is out of place. The simple truth is that you can get away with anything, in government. That covers almost all the evils of the time. Once in, nobody, apparently, can turn you out. The People, as ever (I spell it ‘Sheeple’), will stand anything.
In The Old Hokum Bucket (1949), Ernest Rogers (1897-1967), a columnist for The Atlanta Journal (Georgia), wrote, under “We, the Sheeple”:
With so many “sheeple” in this country it is little wonder that mountebanks in many fields of endeavor have thrived and grown fat. False ideologies gain support from the “sheeple” who have come within the orbit of some particular doctrine that has a high gloss and plenty of surface appeal.
And, of course, the demagogues and the shysters play on this weakness in the nature of “sheeple” and keep their promises shined and polished like the apples in a sidewalk fruit stand.