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Allison, I think you're mischaracterizing the general view as "outrage" rather than just bewilderment. The anecdotal fact that I can say that in all my years in Knoxville I have never heard the appellation does not mean it's impossible that anyone uses it. The anecdotal claim that you have heard people use it, by the same token, shouldn't be extrapolated to mean that the term is "often" used by "people who live here." In fact, given the number of people protesting that they've never heard the term, it would certainly appear more accurate to say that it is "rarely" used by "a few people who live here," or, perhaps, based on your own experience, "often" used by "a few people who used to live here." That's the statistical standpoint.
From a journalistic standpoint, “Knoxville is often called ‘the couch’ by the people who live there,” as a statement is an example of "weasel words," i.e a statement whose vagueness confuses or conceals its validity or intent. How often? What people? How many people? It's a basic journalistic concept, with which I am sure you are familiar. While I just found the 'couch' term perplexing, I'm more bothered by your apparent intransigence in your defense of a statement that can't even qualify as good journalism. At the same time, the Knoxville article was, by definition, a sort of puff piece, did not claim to be ground-breaking well-researched journalism, and the rules could be considered to be somewhat more lax.
But, by all means, in the great manner of politicians, refuse to back down, and while you're at it, ("I stand corrected ... about the notion that most Knoxville residents are chilled out,") insult the very people you insist that you admire.
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