Sensitive terminology

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Shotha

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I'm curious to know what terminology fat people and their admirers consider to be sensitive terminology these days. I live in New Zealand, where such issues have passed us by. I remember seeing TV shows a couple of years ago, which suggested that fat Americans preferred the word fat. "Overweight" seemed to be one of the most disliked words, drawing comments like "Over whose weight?" and "It implies there's a right weight and a wrong weight." I personally tend to reject words with the element "over" in them, because nature does know the concept of excess. I notice that the words "obese" and "obesity" are used around here. I used to think that the word "obese" just sounded so beautiful but now I try not to use it, because of its etymology. It is from the Latin obesus meaning "one who has overeaten" and so has the element "over" in it. Friends descibe me as "big" and say that I prefer big men but for me the word "big" just doen't cut the mustard, because people can be big witout being fat. The word just ducks the issue.

I'm curious to know if anyone in Europe or America has done a survey of the words that fat people and their admirers like and dislike. I would like to do such a survey in New Zealand, as I'm trying to stir up some interest in fat activism in this country.

I seem to be the only one over hear who tries to talk positively about fat. In the 1990's I ran a Chubs and Chasers Club over here and broke linguistic conventions in a noticeable way. In Western European languages words for "fat" tend to collocate with words for "horrible" and "ugly". This is mere convention and if enough people break conventions, then new conventions can be established. In our club newsletter, a 12-page monthly production, I chose to follow the conventions of other cultures, where the words for "fat" collocate with words for "beautiful', "handsome" or "attractive". It raised a who few eyebrows but quite a few people who were neither fat nor fat admirers thought that our new way of speaking about the subject was good, because it expressed the way we felt.

And of course, most relevant to this topic is the subject of self-denigration, a form of behaviour, in which most discriminated against and oppressed groups indulge. I try to educate other fat people into not putting each other down.

Any input about the topic of fat-sensitive terminolgy would be greatly appreciated, remembering that linguistic sensitivities will vary from country to country.

Finally, is there anyone apart from myself, who would like to see the big and tall shops start calling themselves "fat and tall shops" instead?
 

ConnieLynn

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I'm pretty straight forward. I use the word 'fat'. I'm fat, other people my size are fat. I use the word without apology or hesitation, the same as I would use tall, short, thin. It's simply a physical description.

If someone were to describe me as the fat blond chick who lives around the corner, I certainly would not be offended.
 

EMH1701

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I prefer the word fat as well. "Obese" is horrible, IMHO...sounds like a beast, which is pretty much the way many bigots treat fat people these days. IMHO we need to take the words back from them, much like most nerds and geeks have taken the words back from the rest of the world. Guess who makes more money now?

I'm proud to be a girl geek. Yeah, I know my way around a computer (one of my degrees is a 2-year in programming), am in a Star Trek club, read science fiction and fantasy novels avidly, and game old-school, table-top style.

There's always "plus size" but that tends to be used to describe women more so than men, and the fashion industry pretty much considers any woman over a size 10 "plus," so that encompasses a lot of women.
 

CastingPearls

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I mostly use 'fat'. If in company that I know is sensitive or struggles with their own weight, I might say 'heavy' or 'big'. When I refer to my fashion modeling days, I use the term 'plus-size' because that was the terminology.

I'm not a fan of 'chubby' because it was the tiny section of the store where my mom used to buy my clothing which consisted mainly of sailor suits and disapproval. Nor am I a fan of 'fluffy' because while it's cute, I am not a sheep.

I don't use the term 'overweight' because of the reasons given in the OP, and I don't like 'obese' because it's really an arbitrary medical term and that in itself is an oxymoron.
 

Pear320

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I prefer "fat" . .

my sister-in-law actually says "oBEAST", but then she calls albacore tuna "Albuquerque" tuna (hmm ..like tuna comes from New Mexico), so it's hard to know if she's being mean or just ignorant. Doesn't matter, I could slap her either way.
 

Surlysomething

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I use all sorts of words. The only one I dislike is 'obese'. It just sounds gross.

Owning the word 'fat' is a liberating thing.

I also call myself a chunk ass a lot too. Haha. Whatevs!
 

Miss Vickie

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I mostly use the word fat though it's interesting -- in the non-SA community they gasp when I use that word. I don't mind obese since I'm in the medical field but it's not my favorite.

The word "fattie" is a word I cannot abide. I know lots of people use it but for some reason it's like nails on a chalkboard.

I don't know that there has been a survey but you could always create a poll....
 

MrSensible

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It's funny, I've used the word "overweight" almost exclusively when describing myself or someone else who's heavyset (<-- that's another one), because I always figured it was considered more mild and potentially less abrasive than the word fat itself. In my experience (though grade school especially) the word fat was pretty much always used in a derogatory way. The tone or inflection someone puts on it when they use it also plays a huge part in how it comes across, and for me, it was normally said in a way that was meant to incite offense (I was on the "ass end" of this, more than I care to remember).That said, I guess I still have a small bias against the word. I tend to think of it as being a bit more condescending, but it really depends on the context it's being used so I'm warming up to it, especially in the way it's used around here.

As for "overweight", I never really thought about it from a more stringent perspective before, but after seeing it explained like that, I can definitely see your point, Shotha. After all, we all have our own preferences when it comes to weight, so saying that a particular weight is "over" is entirely subjective.

Looks like I'll be changing up my terminology a bit :p
 

Lovelyone

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It's funny, I've used the word "overweight" almost exclusively when describing myself or someone else who's heavyset (<-- that's another one), because I always figured it was considered more mild and potentially less abrasive than the word fat itself. In my experience (though grade school especially) the word fat was pretty much always used in a derogatory way. The tone or inflection someone puts on it when they use it also plays a huge part in how it comes across, and for me, it was normally said in a way that was meant to incite offense (I was on the "ass end" of this, more than I care to remember).That said, I guess I still have a small bias against the word. I tend to think of it as being a bit more condescending, but it really depends on the context it's being used so I'm warming up to it, especially in the way it's used around here.

As for "overweight", I never really thought about it from a more stringent perspective before, but after seeing it explained like that, I can definitely see your point, Shotha. After all, we all have our own preferences when it comes to weight, so saying that a particular weight is "over" is entirely subjective.

Looks like I'll be changing up my terminology a bit :p
I felt the same way about the word "fat". That word rubbed me the wrong way for such a long time because of the derogatory manner it was used. I never used it to describe myself or others because I hated it so much. It's like the word pig...pigs can be cute little creatures but no one wants to be called one.
I was beaten up in elementary school and all-the-while they were hitting me they were calling me fat names. They terrorized me. That word tore at my confidence, stopped me from looking for friends and basically made me fearful of being around others for it. I would walk into a room of people and start wondering which of them would be the first to call me fat to my face and start a fight with me just because I was heavier than they were. I hated that word, hated it with a passion and then one day it occurred to me that I was allowing a word to have a negative hold on me.
It takes a while to gain your stride, feel good about yourself and honestly...to not feel disgusted about who you are/what you look like when your confidence has been stolen from you--and I am at the point now. Now, I realize that it is only a descriptor and doesn't even come close to defining who I really am or the kind of person that I've become. It doesn't bother me anymore to be described as fat, and I don't have a problem calling myself that anymore. It is quite freeing...but I do correct children and teenagers whom are using as a derogatory term.
 

Marlayna

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I'll use the word fat to describe myself. If I want to sound cute, I'll say I'm Plush-sized.:smitten:
I was never bullied about my weight at school, though at home, my "mother" would call me every name in the book.
She was fond of elephant, pig, and hippo... and those were the nicer ones.
She's been dead 10 years, but I can hear her nasty mouth every day in my head. Thanks, ma.:really sad:
 

MrSensible

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I felt the same way about the word "fat". That word rubbed me the wrong way for such a long time because of the derogatory manner it was used. I never used it to describe myself or others because I hated it so much. It's like the word pig...pigs can be cute little creatures but no one wants to be called one.
I was beaten up in elementary school and all-the-while they were hitting me they were calling me fat names. They terrorized me. That word tore at my confidence, stopped me from looking for friends and basically made me fearful of being around others for it. I would walk into a room of people and start wondering which of them would be the first to call me fat to my face and start a fight with me just because I was heavier than they were. I hated that word, hated it with a passion and then one day it occurred to me that I was allowing a word to have a negative hold on me.
It takes a while to gain your stride, feel good about yourself and honestly...to not feel disgusted about who you are/what you look like when your confidence has been stolen from you--and I am at the point now. Now, I realize that it is only a descriptor and doesn't even come close to defining who I really am or the kind of person that I've become. It doesn't bother me anymore to be described as fat, and I don't have a problem calling myself that anymore. It is quite freeing...but I do correct children and teenagers whom are using as a derogatory term.
Yeah, I had some very similar experiences growing up so I guess that's why I've never been much of a fan of the word. It really does depend on the context though, and as long as it's not used in an offensive way, it doesn't bother me too much.

It's interesting to see how dramatically our life experiences alter how we feel about anything and everything, even down to something as relatively simple as the words we use :p.
 

Qit el-Remel

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I tend to use the word "fat" unless I know for a fact that some otherwise body-positive individual is touchy about it.

My reasoning is as follows: The O-words are inherently insulting. "Overweight," as mentioned above, implies that something is "wrong" with you; "obese" is a presumption on the person's habits (seriously: look up the etymology). "Fat," by contrast, has become an insult by virtue of certain body types being reviled and pathologized.
 

Myn

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I use the word fat about myself, but since I don't know how other people feel about it, I tend to rely on softer descriptions if the need comes up, like "plump." Since where I work is predominantly African-Americans and no Brits, I can also use the word "thick" and not have anyone think I'm calling someone stupid.

I find it quietly hysterical that, invariably, if I stop a kid from talking in a derogatory way about another kid being fat, the response is along the lines of, "Oh, Ms. [Myn], you're not fat. You're just big." There's just a clear disconnect in the mind, like fat is bad but I like you, therefore you're not fat despite the evidence to the contrary.
 

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