Wednesday 11 May 2011


You musn't call people fat. They get offended. Call a man tubby and he will bubble with resentment, call a lady plump and she'll give you a slap. Even pleasant sounding words like podgy can get you in trouble. The whole thesaurus - meaty, stout, obese, overweight, chubby, pudgy, fubsy, squat, five by five, square, dumpy, chunky, portly, corpulent, paunchy, pot-bellied, gorbellied, convex, puffy, pursey, bloated, double-chinned, plump as a dumpling, plump as a partridge, fat as a quail, fat as butter, fat as brawn, fat as bacon, fat as a pig - will get you in similar trouble.

So what are you to do when you need to describe a fatty-fattener? Inky Fool and a three-hundred year old dictionary have the answer: Ventripotent.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Everybody wants to be potent and, unless they know what the ventri is, I suspect they'll take it well. Of course, if they looked in a copy of Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall (1604) they would find the following:

Ventripotent, big-paunch, bellie-able, huge-guts.

But as they are very unlikely to have a copy to hand you're safe. Ventri, you see, was the Latin for stomach and potent means, well, potent. It's the same ventri that you find in ventriloquism, which means speaking from the stomach. In fact, ventriloquism was originally the belief that you had a loquacious demon in your belly. Another antique dictionary, Blount's Glossographia, has this:

Ventriloquist, one that hath an evil spirit speaking in his belly, or one that by use and practise can speak as it were out of his belly, not moving his lips.

The Inky Fool resented being pointed at like that.

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