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On Invectives in Natural Language: A Panchronic Study of English Synonyms of ‘Skinny’/‘Fatty’


Agnieszka Grząśko

The author researches selected synonyms of ‘skinny’ and ‘fatty’ in the history of the English language from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. The method employed in grouping the analytical material has been dictated by the nature of the processes of semantic change. The author subdivided the quantum of the analysed lexical items into the following type-groups: zoosemy (animal metaphor), foodsemy (food metaphor), plantosemy (plant metaphor), metonymy, reification, eponymy, onomatopoeia, rhyming slang and varia. Surveying a collection of English dictionaries the author makes an attempt to determine the status of a given synonym in present-day English.

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Chapter 3: The Study of Diachronic Growth of Historical Synonyms of Fatty in English


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Chapter 3:  The Study of Diachronic Growth of Historical Synonyms of Fatty in English

3.0  Introduction

Even a cursory look at our data allows us to speak of a vast disproportion in the number of synonyms historically linked to the conceptual categories SKINNY and FATTY, in that the number of diachronically evidenced tools employed with reference to those who are on the fat side is twice as numerous as the bulk of words that are testified for the sense ‘skinny’. The analysis that follows is aimed at scrutinizing the historical development of the best documented and most frequently registered synonyms of fatty. Interestingly, even within such well-defined groups of words, there are cases which are disputable as to the etymology or gender parameter, because different sources provide frequently contradictory information concerning the precise moment when a given word entered the vocabulary stock of English, developed the human-specific sense or whether it is female-specific, male-specific or epicene. In such controversial cases our attitude will be to stick to the data and guidance provided by the OED.

The panchronic onomasiological corpora of lexical items related to the concept FAT PERSON, hence (FATTY) is as follows:25

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