Monday, March 26, 2018

`The Needs of the Outsized'

I spoke recently with a pediatrician who, in passing, referred to a child’s “adiposity.” He meant fat. I found the fancy verbiage rather charming, as it mingled professional jargon-slinging with euphemism. “Fat” is the other f-word. Its referent is ubiquitous and much worried over but unmentionable. I was reminded of the opening sentence in Thomas Berger’s Vital Parts (1970), the third installment of his Reinhart tetralogy:

“Reinhart unwrapped himself from the terry-cloth robe and hung it on the back of the bathroom door by means of the embroidered label (BIGGIES. FOR A LOT O’ GUY, trademark for a mailorder house specializing in the needs of the outsized), so obliterating the fun-house image of his gross nudity in the full-length mirror thereupon.”

 But I also remembered the first time I encountered adiposity, which I understood only from its context in H.L. Mencken’s Happy Days (1940), the first installment of his “Days” trilogy:    

“This adiposity passed off as I began to run about, and from the age of six onward I was rather skinny, but toward the end of my twenties my cross-section again became a circle, and at thirty I was taking one of the first anti-fat cures, and beating it by sly resorts to malt liquor.”

For additional clarification, consult the Ur-text for such matters: Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (1962) by A.J. Liebling.

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