What does ‘fubsy’ mean?

Reading time: Less than one minute

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: fubsy….

I was reading the Delia Owens’ novel Where the Crawdads Sing when the word fubsy jumped off the page and gave my eyeballs a good shake. What on earth did it mean?

Here’s how Owens used it:

Bald and fubsy, his coat buttoned tight against a round belly, Mr. Lang Furlough testified that he owned and operated the Three Mountains Motel in Greenville.

I ran to the nearest dictionary and discovered that it meant someone who was chubby and somewhat squat. Sort of like James Corden (pictured above), I wondered?

According to my dictionary of etymology, the word dates back to 1610 when a fub/fubs was a “small, chubby person,” then seen as a term of endearment (which it definitely would not be, today.)

More interestingly, however, in 2008, Collin’s Dictionary invited the public and certain celebrities to nominate what they called “lesser known” words that were at risk of being lost from use and from the publication. English actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry chose the word fubsy.

Ironically, the Telegraph, which reported the story, made an error with the word and recorded it as fusby instead of fubsy.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Sept. 11/19.

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