Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon May 31 22:26:17 UTC 2004

On May 31, 2004, at 5:01 PM, Jonathon Green wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathon Green <slang at ABECEDARY.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]
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> FWIW I offer:
> 1968  ‘Hy Lit’ _Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dictionary of Hip Words_
> 14: FAT -
> Great; cool; you dig it; boss; likeable; nice; ultra-hip.
> This was, of course, a dictionary of Black slang. Given hip-hop's
> propensity to re-spell many words as a deliberate statement of
> difference,
> I would suggest that this has a better claim than the many acronyms,
> although I would suggest that they are not quite as absurd as F.U.C.K.
> (my preferred versions is 'Fornicate Under Command of the King',
> supposedly alluding to some law of, I think, Charles II).
> And 'fat' has meant 'good' since at least 1610.
> However, the November 1973 edition of Connie Eble's ongoing _Campus
> Slang_
> list has:
> _phat_ - nice looking and shapely, applied to females
> which of course long predates hiphop. There is, however, no suggestion
> of
> an acronym.
> Jonathon Green
Given that my citation, though anecdotal, dates to 1950 and comes from
a totally trustworthy source, I tend to take it more seriously than I
would take a citation from eighteen years later, more than enough time
for the origin of a slang term to be lost. The citation from Prof. Eble
(1973) strikes me as irrelevant, inasmuch as I made no reference to
hip-hop, not to mention that it postdates my cite by nearly a full
quarter-century. The fact that "fat" has meant "good" since 1610 is
likewise irrelevant, though I do find it quite interesting. Consider
the following.

In Russian, the adjective "khudoi" means both "thin" and "bad."
Likewise, the German adjective "schlimm," clearly cognate with English
"slim," also means "bad," with no reference whatsoever to body type. In
East Texas, the region where I was born and from which my family
originates, among black people, at least, the adjective "poor," in
addition to its usual meanings, also means "skinny, undernourished,
unbecomingly slender." In the BE of Saint Louis, the adjective
"healthy," in addition to its standard meanings, means, when applied to
a girl or a woman, "having broad hips, large, protruding buttocks,
meaty, meaty [sic] thighs, and thick calves" and is one the highest
compliments hat can be paid a woman.

Finally, "fuck" is a standard English word with cognates in Dutch and
German and not slang. Clearly, any attempt to derive it from
initial-slang is ridiculous.

-Wilson Gray

P.S. I've been black for nearly seventy years. How long have you been

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