Is Fat a Bad Word? The Elephant in the Room

November 2nd, 2016 by elaine

Somebody told me it is.  I can’t believe it!  If fat is a bad word, does that mean people who are fat are bad people?  No?  Well, if people who are fat have a bad word attached to them, how could they not feel bad?  Oh?  So that’s exactly why one should never use the word fat, because a fat person may be within hearing distance and feel….bad?

Is a fat person fat?  If a fat person is not fat, how would you describe a fat person?

Is it o.k. to say a fat person is heavy-set, over weight, obese, chubby, of a “traditional build” (Africa – thanks to Alexander McCall Smith and Mma Ramotse), large, huge, what…..?  Nothing?  Nothing at all?

Is a fat person invisible?

Let’s talk about other bad words, let’s talk about dirty words – like dirty.  When I was three or four years old my playmate Kathleen called me a dirty Jew.  I bit her for that, and there were consequences.  She ran home crying and her mother came to talk to my mother, who was a Jew and she was not dirty, nor was I, but my mother scolded me for biting Kathleen anyway.  I long ago forgave my mother and Kathleen as well, but I have never forgotten this incident.

Last week I was in a very large elevator where, though it accommodated many people of various ages, genders, and stations in life, every single one was wearing a black coat.  It was so compelling, I had to announce it out loud.  Not much reaction, neither positive nor negative, so I assume no one took offense at my use of the word black, yet it is, of course, under certain conditions, a bad word.

Coloured?  Dark?  I have a box of laundry detergent Especially suitable for colored and dark garments. Is it O.K. then, to say a person is coloured?  No?  How about if I say use the term person of colour?  O.K.?

I have a book of nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes, and here’s one of them I know by heart:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I’ve been to London to look at the queen.

Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?

I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

Are you going to let a vulgar man, by his distortion, his broadcasting of man’s lowest dimension, take a baby’s word away?

If you can’t say the word fat because it is a bad word, perhaps you never recognized how hurtful it is to make a word bad by giving it raunchy associations.  Or perhaps you can’t remember the difference between an insult and a fact, between an observation appropriately considered and a cutting remark meant to wound.

Are fat people invisible?

Is there an elephant in the room, huge, noisy, probably smelly, and incredibly family oriented, generous, kind, and in some cultures the God of Auspicious Beginnings? Embrace the idea of the elephant; hug the fat person of your acquaintance if they like you enough to allow it, and enjoy the human contact we otherwise sacrifice to that ugly word: correctness.

©Elaine A. Zimbel 2016

Posted in Cabinet Privé, Eighty and then some..., Uncategorized, Your character is your fate


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