What does teethpaste mean?


Teethpaste is a humorous form of toothpaste. It typically comes up in considerations of or jokes about why tooth isn't plural in toothpaste.

Examples of teethpaste


Examples of teethpaste
Why isn't it called teethpaste? / Are we only supposed to brush one? Have I been working way too hard this whole time.....
@violettbeane, June, 2017
Should it be teethpaste? “Should” and “are” are two different things, and we only truck in reality. Sorry, all you teethpaste evangelists out there. We suggest you get back to puzzling out the problem of evil instead.
Merriam-Webster, June, 2017

Where does teethpaste come from?

iStock / Getty Images

If toothpaste is a substance used to clean all of a person’s teeth, then why isn’t it called teethpaste?

Therein lies the joke about toothpaste and broader observations about the irregularities of the English language that teethpaste highlights.

Joke, indeed. Early record of teethpaste can be found on internet Usenet forums as early as 1997. It’s a classist joke, one that makes fun of the South as backwoods. It goes: Why do you suppose that Arkansas invented toothpaste? If any other state did, it’d be called teethpaste! The punchline is that the people are so degenerate they only have one tooth.

Teethpaste went somewhat viral in June 2017 after user @stephenjmolloy falsely claimed that Merriam-Webster‘s Twitter account blocked him after he saucily direct-messaged them: “It should be teethpaste and you know it.”

After a fun exchange with @stephenjmolloy, Merriam-Webster published an article explaining why toothpaste isn’t teethpaste. The short answer is that English is weird. The long answer is that compound words generally use the singular form of a word to represent the whole, including those involving body parts: hairbrushfootstool, armchair, bookcase, etc.

While we use toothpaste to brush more than one tooth, the English language has a logic all its own. This hasn’t stopped people, however, from continuing to troll dictionaries—or toothpaste manufacturers like Colgate—by playfully insisting, like @stephenjmolloy, that teethpaste is the correct term.

Who uses teethpaste?

Toothpaste, of course, is the standard word. The word teethpaste is generally only used when people consider why toothpaste isn’t called so, typically as a musing about the curiosities of English.

Instances of teethpaste often allude to @stephenjmolloy’s original statement: “It should be teethpaste and you know it.”

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