Show Less
Restricted access

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.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access



In spite of the fact that one fails to encounter any prehistoric written records of insulting, we can hazard a guess that it is almost as old as human speech. The first humans probably swore when they were not able to find food, although there were few words to express their discontentment. In the course of time, along with the development of language, the most serious expletives started to be connected with religion. Then, dirty words were employed with reference to sex acts and parts of the body. Nowadays, the so-called ‘taboo words’ are directed against people who are different; people of different gender, sexuality, race or religion (see Leigh and Lepine 2005: 8–9).

In this work we target a very narrow fraction of the whole panorama of human qualities that may be subject to insulting. The overriding aim of this book is to elaborate on verbal violence which focuses on our physique. To be more precise, our goal is to carry out a diachronic semantic analysis of over fifty nouns that have in the history of English been used in the sense ‘a skinny person’ and ‘a fat person’. It is fitting to add that the effects of human nutritional habits may have always been subject to mockery, ridicule and insulting; although the very fact of being either fat or skinny is not to be treated as a universally conceived quality. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that in a few years’ time some...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.