Vocabulary for your Weight Fat Cats and Muffin Tops
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Hi, I’m Hilary and welcome to this, the weekly podcast from Adept English, (English Vocabulary for your Weight – Fat Cats and Muffin Tops). We aim to help you with your English language learning, help you to understand new words and phrases and to become fluent in English. As always, there’s a transcript on our website, a written version of the words I’m saying now – to help you.
Our website is www.adeptenglish.com – and it’s well worth having a look. If you want to take your English language learning even further, there are courses you can sign up for on the website – and I’m busy working on another course, which I’m hoping will be available in the next few weeks.
So this week’s subject – it’s a sensitive topic – weight – and words to describe too much weight. If you’re talking in English about peoples’ weight, there are quite a number of terms. I’m not proposing to cover all of them today, but let’s start with some of the more commonly used examples. So I’m talking here about English vocabulary around weight – so terms which are commonly used to describe people who’re overweight. Here I’m trying to address one of the problems which English language learners face – that in English there are so many words which mean almost the same thing – but not quite. So your weight is what you measure when you stand on the scales in your bathroom. Your weight is how heavy you are. You possibly measure this in kilograms (kg) or if you’re in the UK, you might measure it in stones and pounds and if you’re from the US, you would probably give your weight in pounds (lbs) .
So yes, this is a sensitive subject – and I’m not suggesting that you use any of today’s words to describe your English friends – it’s quite likely they wouldn’t be very happy to be called these words. But it’s worth you knowing them, so that you can understand them, when you hear them used. So I’ll explain the meaning of words you might find in the dictionary and which you might hear people use. So if we want to describe someone increasing their weight, we say they put weight on or they gain weight. And if their weight gets less – we say they ‘lose weight’. So, as you can imagine there are lots of people in the UK on a diet, controlling what they eat, doing exercise –all in the hope that they will lose weight.
So let’s start with the words that your doctor might use – the words which would be used by professional people when they are advising about weight. So a doctor or health professional might say to you that you’re overweight – so you’re carrying too much weight – or possibly that you’re underweight – you’re carrying too little weight on your body. So these are simple terms – variations in weight that perhaps need the person to make changes in your life. If you are just the right weight, then this might be referred to medically as your ‘ideal weight’. And doctors sometimes measure your Body Mass Index or BMI – so they take your height, how tall you are into account, make a calculation – and tell you whether your BMI, your height to weight, is healthy or not.
There is quite a big problem in the UK with people being overweight – and the NHS – the National Health Service and the government are trying to take action to reduce peoples’ weight – because it makes healthcare cost more, as well as making people unhappy. So the medical term for someone who is overweight that has a bad effect, has risks for their health, is obese. If you’re found to be obese, your doctor will recommend that you go on a diet, eat less and do more exercise and try to lose some weight. And the noun to go with this is ‘obesity’ – so for example you could say ‘Obesity is a problem in the UK’. You might find this word is used when it’s discussed in magazines or on the news. You might hear about ‘the obesity crisis’ or ‘the obesity epidemic’.
If someone is really, really overweight, they might get called morbidly obese – that’s the official term for it. So this is when someone is carrying so much weight that it’s dangerous to their life, it’s dangerous to their good health. So these are official terms, official words and phrases that you would hear from a doctor or a nurse, giving you advice on your health.
But of course, there are a lot of other words that you might hear – some of them, not very kind, not very nice. And all of them – you have to be careful with. Weight is a sensitive subject and you can easily hurt peoples’ feelings.
So the most obvious and simple word you might hear to describe someone who is overweight is ‘fat’. So perhaps be careful of this – most people don’t like to be thought of as fat, so it’s not what you’d say to someone’s face, necessarily. You could say it of an animal – yes, we have overweight pets and animals in the UK as well – it can be a problem! So you might say ‘That dog is getting a bit fat – you need to take him for some more walks’. Interestingly, if you say ‘a fat cat’, this could well mean an overweight cat, a cat with weight problems. But ‘fat cat’ also is a term used for people who earn a lot of money – too much money, especially if the person saying it, doesn’t think that they deserve the money, doesn’t think that earned it – they’re ‘fat cats’.
Another word you might hear used of someone who is carrying a bit too much weight is plump. That’s quite a nice word – and really is a sort of positive word for fat, if used for things other than people. You might talk about plump to mean ‘well stuffed’, ‘well filled’ – so a cushion on your chair, or something to eat might be described as ‘plump’. So a chicken or a goose may be plump – and ready to eat! You might say that grapes or plums or other fruit were plump, when they’re very ripe, juicy and just ready to eat. So I guess plump means filled up, or stuffed and might be the word we use when something is full. So then again, if you were just getting out of the swimming pool and someone said you were plump, it’s not something you’re likely to be pleased about, pleased to hear. But in some contexts, it does have a positive kind of meaning. I’m not sure you’d find this word in the dictionary, but sometimes people say things like plumptious – a mixture of plump and delicious. We do like to make words up – and if you do this, people will often be quite accepting of it in conversation – less so if it’s written down perhaps!
Another word for fat or overweight you might hear is flabby – and you might hear phrases like ‘fight the flab’ – so flabby is the adjective and flab is the noun. So flabby still essentially means fat, but it’s the opposite of plump really. Flabby is what might happen if you have big muscles and then you don’t exercise any more. So if you’re flabby, it’s still fat, but it’s a bit loose, there’s a lot of skin, it might hang down, it might wobble. So you could do sit ups or other exercises to try to get rid of your flab.
A word that sometimes people use when they don’t want to say ‘fat’ – they might say ‘heavy’ instead to describe someone. So if you were trying to be a bit kinder, you might say someone’s ‘a bit heavy’ or ‘a bit on the heavy side’- but even so, you probably wouldn’t say it to their face. We might say this in the UK, but it is something that Americans tend to say, I think.
Another word, which is a little bit more positive in meaning, but still to use with care – chubby. Chubby is a word that we might use of babies or small children. Chubby is a bit more cute, it’s not so much of a negative. If you go online and search on ‘Botticelli’, who was an Italian painter B-O-T-T-I-C-E-L-L-I and the word ‘cherub’ – then you’ll get pictures of chubby babies and children. A cherub is a sort of child angel – and these paintings show you exactly what the word chubby means.
Lastly, there are a group of words, which are like chubby – so they could still cause offence, still be heard as negatives, but they’re a bit more playful, a bit more affectionate. So words to describe fat like roly poly or podgy. They’re both words which essentially still mean fat, but they’re trying to be a bit kind and maybe slightly humorous. And last of all, one to think about which you may hear people say in the UK – they might talk about their ‘muffin tops’. So if you think about a muffin, so it’s a sort of cake, which is has a paper case – and the cake is wider at the top than the bottom, where the case is. So the top of a muffin hangs over its case. So – and this is both for men and woman – the slightly fat parts of your body that hang over your clothes, hang over the top of your jeans – these are referred to, these are called your muffin tops! Don’t worry, unless you’re very young and slim and beautiful – most of us have muffin tops somewhere.
So there we are – words and vocabulary all about weight. Perhaps I’ll do words for underweight in another podcast. Enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.