What’s a ‘fatberg’?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: fatberg….

You’ll certainly be familiar with the word iceberg, but have you ever heard of a fatberg? I hadn’t until I received an email from longtime reader Arnold Gendelman containing a link to one of the most compelling headlines I’ve seen in months: “Fatbergs: The developed world’s most disgusting dilemma.”

Lexicologists added the word to the Oxford Online Dictionary in 2015 (you can see it as #8 here) and its definition is: “(noun): a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets.” That’s a photo of one at the top of this post. Gross.

The word is in the news because a recent record-breaking fatberg— made of discarded cooking oil, wipes, condoms, sanitary napkins, diapers, and other items —some  250 meters (820 ft) long and 130 tonnes (143 tons)—was discovered in an East-London sewer in September. 

As the mother of triplets let me say that I never flushed diapers or wet wipes down the toilet when my kids were babies. Even though I didn’t know they could lead to fatbergs.