October 16th, 2008

Connotations in language - my own little study

In my writing class today, we were discussing word choices, including political correctness and connotations of varying words. The professor had us complete an exercise in which we were given a list of words generally meaning "underweight," and a list of words generally meaning "overweight," and asked to classify them into very positive, positive, neutral, negative, and very negative.

The class had a variety of answers, of course, but there was an especially marked difference between the male and the female students - most of the women said that being called "stocky" would be a huge insult, but wouldn't mind "emaciated," while the guys were quite the opposite.

So now I'm asking everybody on this community how they'd classify these words, to see what the difference is among the eating disordered population.

The words are as follows:

bony, cadaverous, delicate, emaciated, fleshless, gangling, gaunt, haggard, lanky, lean, rawboned, scrawny, skeletal, skinny, slender, slight, slim, spare, spindly, svelte, thin, underfed, undernourished, underweight, and wizened.

beefy, big, bulky, chubby, chunky, corpulent, elephantine, fat, fleshy, heavy-set, obese, overweight, paunchy, plump, ponderous, portly, pudgy, rotund, stocky, stout, thickset, tubby, well-fed, well-padded.

You can classify them as follows:
Very positive (++), positive (+), neutral (0), negative (-), very negative (--)

Oh, and if you think it makes a difference, you can say what kind of a disorder you've got. I'd be curious to know how this differs from my class (I'll post the results that my classmates came up with later).