Is ‘Fat’ A Politically Incorrect Word?

I don’t like hearing about political correctness. Whenever I hear this expression in the media it’s usually as a result of someone deciding that a word or song that has been used for decades is suddenly offensive to a minority group and must be banned. The complaint about the “offensive” expression usually doesn’t even come from the minority group.

Examples of such political incorrectness are:

1. “Merry Christmas” should be expressed as “Seasons’ Greetings”.

2. “Fairy Penguins” are now known as “Little Penguins” (in order not to offend the gay community).

3. The children’s nursery rhyme “Baa Baa Black sheep” has been changed to “Baa Baa Rainbow sheep”.

4. “Manholes” have become “person holes”.

5. “Brainstorming” should be known as “thought showers” in order not to offend persons who have epilepsy.

6. A word from the classic Australian children’s song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” which says, “How gay your life must be”, is changed to “How fun your life must be”.

Today, I just read another phrase that can be added to that list of examples. Fat. According to today’s newspaper, Weight Watchers Australia don’t like the use of the word fat, as it may offend.

Members of the Weight Watchers community forum see this message when they try and post on the site using the word fat:

“Sorry, but your message contains language that we consider to be inappropriate for WeightWatchers.com.au message boards and violates our community standards and conduct guidelines, which are part of our terms and conditions.

“The following word is not permissible on our site: FAT.

“If you would still like to send your message, go back and delete the word.”

What annoys me about banning words is that I don’t think it reduces the harm that may be caused by the use of such words (that’s assuming the word is offensive to begin with). Similar to diet deprivation, where people start obsessing about the banned food, banning phrases may entice those who want to use these words to create offense, to use them more frequently or up the ante with their offensiveness. Furthermore, none of these words are offensive per se, it’s the context and manner in which the phrase is spoken that makes them offensive. It’s also people’s perceptions and beliefs about words that make them offensive or not. Some people don’t have a problem with using the word fat to describe themselves. They don’t consider the word to be derogatory in any way. To them, the word is morally neutral. Not so with others.

Fat is essential for the body (hence, the term essential fatty acids). Fat is something you cook with, eat and it has many health benefits. Personally, I will continue to use this word as I do not believe it to be offensive if used appropriately.

You can read the full article on by clinking on the link below:

Don’t mention the word fat, says Weight Watchers

About Suzanne

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Suzanne is the owner of Food, Mood and Attitude. Suzanne is passionate about sharing healthy messages about how we relate to food and our bodies. Life is too short too worry about big bums and diets that don't work.

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Suzanne

Suzanne is the owner of Food, Mood and Attitude. Suzanne is passionate about sharing healthy messages about how we relate to food and our bodies. Life is too short too worry about big bums and diets that don't work.

15 thoughts on “Is ‘Fat’ A Politically Incorrect Word?”

      1. I think political correctness has its place, especially since the concept was originally introduced to make people more aware of the affect their words have on others.

        For example, calling something stupid “gay.” Gay people might not find it offensive but using a word that a group of marginalized people use to describe themselves to describe something negative has a negative impact. It reinforces the idea in people’s heads that gay is synonymous with something bad.

        The problem is that we take political correctness too far. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it, is we do stupid things in the name of political correctness — such as changing the words to Baa Baa Black Sheep or changing “gay” to “fun.”

        Fat, right now, is synonymous with lazy, stupid, undesirable and unattractive. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it — Queer used to have negative connotations too — we should claim it as our own.

        That said, we do need to be aware of how our words can affect people directly, and by influencing mindsets. We just need to be smart about it.

  1. I’m all for “inclusion” or “acceptance” or whatever you want to call it… but you know, when it comes to a point where they are limiting our rights as outlined in the Constitution, I would say it’s gone a bit too far. And, quite honestly, I feel by banning words such as “fat” they’re actually applying more of a negative connotation to the word than what it had before. Now that word is not only “offensive” but taboo as well!
    I could probably go on and on about this but probably shouldn’t! :)
    Great post! Stopping by from the UBC! #blogboost. Have a great weekend!

    Cathy
    Cathy Davis recently posted..BLOGGERS! Sign Ups Open for The Grand Event! HUGE Opportunity!My Profile

    1. I agree. I think banning words when done with the intention not to offend others is more likely to cause division and intolerance of the minority group.

    1. The political correct extremists sure have an issue with the word gay! That’s crazy to change the words of a classic Christmas song. The word gay has a positive connotation when used here. Rather than banning the word, showing that a certain word can be used in a positive way, is more likely to reduce the perceived offence of the word.

      1. It seems to me that in the case of replacing “gay” with anything else, the intent is not to avoid offending “teh gayz” but to avoid saying the word.

        You know, to keep people from feeling uncomfortable singing something like “I feel pretty, and witty, and gay…” Because “gay” can’t mean happy now that it means homosexual.

        1. That’s a good point, Jill! I’m sure maintaining the original meaning of the word and keeping it in nursery rhymes etc, particularly as gay meant happy, would help to reduce any negative connotation of the word. That’s the way I see it but I’m sure some might see it differently. As you said in your previous comment, we just need to be smarter about the use of words that seem to be deemed politically incorrect. The use of the word gay in nursery rhymes etc., could reinforce that it is a positive word to use. Educating people at a young age that these words are acceptable when used in the right context is likely to reduce harm and negative meanings of the word.

  2. Nice post. Who is responsible for deciding what is politically correct? It’s such a funny world we live in, why alter the words to songs and nursery rhymes created with only one meaning in mind these songs/rhymes were not written to offend anyone/any community. Let gay apprael be just that! I find it hard to believe that Weight Watchers have an issue with ‘fat’ – really?!!
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  3. This is an interesting post for me to read, Suzanne.
    I grew up in a home with an obese (oh, I can barely say that!) mother. In my home fat was the equivalent of f**#.
    It would cause everyone in the family to flinch if there was the word “fat” even on the tv. None of us would dare say the word.

    I’m trying to be more open with my kids and their language. But it still makes me flinch.
    K xx

    1. I can imagine there are many people who have difficulty using the word fat, particularly if the word has been used in a derogatory or hurtful manner. It’s usually the meaning attached to the word in those circumstances that creates the emotional reaction. I assume Weight Watchers were considering the negative connotations of the word, although I don’t think banning words would generally promote tolerance or acceptance or protect people from harm….

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