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phat

adjective [informal]

1. good, attractive or desirable

2. fashionable, especially relating to the fashion styles of hip hop

'phat fashion'
'Welcome to Phat Phits! Our goal at Phat Phits is to keep you PHITTED in the PHATEST gear at prices well below your local stores.'

www.phatphits.com

No, we are not talking about a new spelling variant of an adjective meaning 'overweight'. Phat is an informal term for expressing general approval for someone or something, and can be used in expressing admiration of various qualities, including being fashionable, intelligent, cool or sexy.

the adjective phat … is a deliberate misspelling of fat, intended to invert its meaning

Dated as 'late 20th century', phat is now beginning to enter the latest editions of mainstream dictionaries on both sides of the Atlantic. Earlier this year it appeared in the new edition of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and a July 2003 article in the Los Angeles Times reports its inclusion in the 11th edition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. The term has also this year been added to the new edition of The Oxford English Dictionary along with other terms from 'rap' culture such as bling bling, meaning 'expensive, ostentatious clothing or jewellery, or the wearing of them'.

Background – phat

The adjective phat has emerged from hip hop, a cultural movement originating among young African Americans in the United States and associated with rap music, graffiti art and breakdancing. Deriving from Black English Vernacular, phat is a deliberate misspelling of fat, intended to invert its meaning, though it has also been associated with descriptions of the 'rounded' rear body shapes of black American women.

Phat often appears in advertising slogans precisely because it looks like a misspelling of fat, e.g. phat farm, and is often used alongside words which carry similar plays on spelling, e.g. phat phasun (fashion) or, as seen in the citation above, 'Our goal … is to keep you PHITTED (fitted) in the PHATEST gear …'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 26th September 2003.

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