February 23, 2007 at 9:38 am
As much as I enjoy writing, I must admit the English language has many failings. For instance, why isn’t there a gender neutral pronoun besides “it”? Calling someone “it” is either derogatory or means he/she (see my problem here?) is an insane clown that lives in the sewers. You’ve got “he” and “she,” but no word to refer to someone when you don’t know his/her gender. Typically you end up pluralizing the entire sentence so you can use “they” which can be awkward and sometimes sounds stupid.
I also propose that we need a new word to describe someone who is not fat, but isn’t thin either. There are already words that have submitted their resumes for fulfilling this role in the English language, like “curvy” or “full-figured” or “healthy.” But they come off sounding like euphemisms for “fat” which in our culture is pretty much a euphemism for “ugly.” When I wrote about Tyra Banks a couple weeks ago I said she had “some meat on [her] bones” which sound like I’m comparing her to a slab of T-Bone steak at the butcher’s before deciding which one to take home for dinner. Hmmm, nicely sliced beef or supermodel tenderloin? Which will go better with a nice chardonnay?
I find myself grasping for these idioms all the time when I write about normal-sized or only slightly overweight women like Kelly Clarkson or America Ferrera or Kate Winslet, all members of the just-because-you-can’t-count-our-ribs-doesn’t-mean-we’re-fat brigade. Perhaps if we had a word for this state of being, we could all feel a little more uncomfortable about it. I had a friend who experienced pain and exhaustion for many years of her life until she was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. She felt a great sense of relief when she finally had a name for what was happening to her. It was reassuring to know that it was real enough that someone had bothered assigning a name to it, even if there was no cure and doctors didn’t understand what caused it. Maybe if we had a word for not being thin, but not being fat either, we could all be a little less worried about being considered “fat.” It’d be like the neutral zone in Star Trek, not Federation territory but not Romulan territory either, just a nowhere type of purgatory between two states of being.
Earlier: Jab, Cross, Uppercut – Duck!
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