Why words like “overweight” bother me.

Juan Carreño de Miranda‎'s
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If you’ve been paying attention the past several years, you’ll know we have an “obesity epidemic” on our hands.

Well, that’s what they like to call it. I don’t, because it makes it seem like we fat people are the disease. The way we get treated by most people, you’d think we were.

I don’t mind the descriptor “fat”. In fact I embrace it. It’s completely devoid of any negative or positive denotation — all it means is that I have an abundance of adipose tissue on my frame. That’s it. Simple, to the point, accurate. I am fat.

However, the connotations associated with the word — well, that’s another story. Here’s the skinny (pardon the pun) on denotation vs. connotation, in case you’re not aware: denotation is what a word actually means. Connotation is what people think it means. And because what people think as a whole shapes our society and thus, our language, connotation will quickly become denotation.

That’s why pejorative words are pejorative. They get used as an insult long enough and soon that’s all they are, regardless the actual denotations of the words themselves.

Connotations are completely valid ways of understanding the definitions of words — words mean things, and they don’t exist in a vacuum, separate from society. However, as I am a member of certain groups that are constantly marginalized and referred to in pejorative ways, I’m very invested in the idea of reclaiming pejorative words to remove the negative connotations.

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