Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Jun 2 13:23:40 UTC 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Margaret Lee
> Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 4:07 AM
> Subject: Re: Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]
> You must also consider the fact that a significant aspect of BE
> is its use as a "disguise" language, going back to slavery when
> the enslaved Africans created means of communicating among
> themselves without the slave master knowing what they were
> saying, often talking about him in his presence. Some of these
> were words with double, multiple or opposite meanings. I think
> black acronyms fit this description, especially "phat", no doubt
> used covertly by males without females understanding the meaning
> (at least initially).
> I can't remember specifically how I learned about 'phat' in the
> late 50's and early '60's in Virginia,  but females were very
> familar with its use and meaning, knowing that males used it to
> refer to a female who was "stacked."

I don't believe that anyone is arguing about the meaning of the word; I
certainly am not. That "phat" is used to describe a sexually attractive
woman is beyond dispute.

The question is whether or not it formed as an acronym or whether the
acronym explanation arose later. Do you have other examples of BE words
formed from acronyms? Is acronyming a productive source of non-technical
terms in BE?

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

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