Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Words and Phrases - a Continuing Series

Speaking of fatness, (see yesterday), I've been wondering lately if, in our use of English, we are beginning to try to deny our own responsibility for things. The other day, for example, my husband pointed out that the word 'tragedy' is often used in place of 'outrage' - the case he was looking at was a news item about how hundreds of Australian sheep had been slaughtered very cruelly - and almost certainly unnecessarily - by some people in Pakistan.

My husband (as always) was right - this wasn't a tragedy. It wasn't the result of fate or any force beyond the power of humans to control. It was the result of the brutality of a whole lot of people who had actually signed agreements promising not to be brutal to Australian animals exported to their country - and of the incompetence of other people, employed by Australian taxpayers to ensure that those agreements were upheld.

In a similar fashion, no-one seems to be allowed to be fat any more. Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of fat people around. They remain very much with us, but now they have a condition - they are 'obese', which, perhaps because 'obesity' has a kind of pseudoscientific semi-medical aura around it,  is a diagnosis a doctor is allowed to give a patient, whereas these days telling someone they are 'fat' is pretty much taboo.  In some cases, of course, fatness (sorry, 'obesity'), may be due to an illness or a problem with glands et cetera, but in the majority of cases it is simply a failure of will.

But no, that's wrong. Apparently there is an 'obesity epidemic'. So that's all right. We're not to blame - after all an 'epidemic' is the result of infectious disease. All these poor people, they've simply caught 'obesity'. It's nothing to do with them.

Fatness, on the other hand, is not infectious. Fatness results from a lack of self-discipline, (another semi-taboo concept). It's not up to anyone's doctor to do something about it. It's not up to medical authorities to find a cure for the 'epidemic' of fat.

For those straying towards the tubby side of the spectrum, (and, before anyone accuses me of being unkind, I should point out that I include myself in that cohort), usually the solution is individual responsibility. It's a case of eat less, move more  and when considering eating something, remember my mother-in-law's maxim: 'When in doubt, don't.'

6 comments:

  1. Fat people around the world should all come to New York City. The mayor will protect them from themselves. He will cure them of this tragic epidemic of obesity. Instead of desert, he might put a rat cage on their heads; with rats in. (I think I might move to Canberra. We can be tubby neighbors!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now I come to think of it, doctors should start using the word 'tubby'. It isn't a vicious word. 'I say, Mrs X, you're looking rather tubby these days, aren't you', they could say, 'you do know tubbiness can have a bad effect on the old ticker, what?' If they were Bertie Wooster, that is.

      Delete
    2. Actually, if he gave them "desert," I suppose they would lose weight. Who wants to eat sand? "Dessert" would be a whole different issue. I write too fast.

      Delete
    3. I do have a recipe for Sand Cake, as it happens - no actual sand involved.

      Delete
  2. You're taking your life in your hands writing about fat people. The one time I received a negative comment on my blog was when I dared to remark on the lack of overweight people in Normandy (which surprised me, given their love of cheese, butter and pastries). Within hours, I was taken to task by a woman who was clearly very offended. From the wounded tone she adopted, anyone would have thought that she was suffering from an incurable condition.

    I'll stick to religion and politics in the future, as they seem to be far less controversial.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I installed comment moderation just in the nick of time. Greed is an incurable condition, of course. I suffer, how I suffer, blub, blub, blub.

      Delete