© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

OnWords: Flabbity


A friend of mine recently described her arms, with which she was dissatisfied, as “flabbity.”

Rather than correcting her--the word she wanted was “flabby”--it struck me just how wonderful the folksy neologism “flabbity” really is.

“Flabby” is simply a description, but “flabbity” could be a state of being and a verb, suggesting not just my friend’s frustration but the very fleshly motion that bothers her.

We live in an age in which jargon and buzzwords threaten to color all of language a uniform shade of IBM blue. Noting nonstandard but colorful words like “flabbity” makes us more aware of the rich potential of language and the impromptu creativity of language users.

At meetings where I work, we gas on for hours using nouns that are actually acronyms. Sure, everybody there understands each other, but to an outside observer, we’re speaking mind-numbing gibberish. 

Collectively, we’re also faced with a media landscape where words are kept to a bare minimum and at a fifth-grade level--yet another way the juice of words, as Roy Blount, Jr. would describe it, gets sucked out.   

Between the dull jargon of our working lives and the dumbing down demanded by media, it’s easy to forget that words are fun, even if what they’re describing are things we want to hit the gym to work on.

So no matter your fitness goals, seek out words like “flabbity,” and listen for how language brings joy to the tongue and rich images to mind.  

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com, and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly and New Orleans Review and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.