- For Teachers
Which descriptive adjectives should I use when reffering to a person's body?
fat or heavy?
skinny or thin?
Is anyone of the above vulgar? thanks very much...
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
You have touched upon a very sensitive issue here in the
United States. Words related to weight must be used
very carefully; otherwise, you can hurt someone's feelings
and even make him/her an enemy!!!
(1) Most people, I think, refrain from referring to anyone as
"fat." In the department stores, they sometimes have a
department for "plus-size(d)" people. "Large" is still OK
for sizes of clothing: small/medium/large. But I do not think
a woman (or even most men) would appreciate being referred to
as large. As you know, the technical word "obese" is used in the
medical world. But never call anyone "obese" to his/her face.
I hear that weight is not such a "big deal" in some other countries.
But here in the States, it is a big deal, so you have to be very
careful. Maybe the kindest thing to say: She is a bit overweight.
(Be sure to say "a bit" -- even if it is not a bit!!! Always be as
diplomatic as possible.)
(2) Here in the States, some people joke: You can never be
too thin. Of course, you can be too thin. For example, some
models are so thin that their health is in danger. I hear that some
magazines are saying: no more super thin models. People love to
be congratulated on being thin, but there are perhaps other words that
are better: trim, slim, slender, lithe, etc. Regarding "skinny," I would
not use it. Do you know Spanish? I think that "skinny" is something
like "flaco" in Spanish. Also, sometimes, "skinny" or "thin" can
signify that you have lost weight because of illness.
As you can see, vocabulary is a very difficult matter. Each word
carries a nuance (special meaning).