Today sees publication of yet another raft of words that have become accepted usages and thus entered into the dictionary. So now we can talk about Corbynomics: this, depending on your point of view, may be either a contradiction in terms (an oxymoron, as in Conservative think-tank, to redress the balance) or else a coherent anti-austerity alternative policy for managing the nation’s finances.
We have also gained binge-watching, the habit of spending a whole weekend watching the entire series of a television show (generally, as far as I can see, Friends or Game of Thrones, depending on whether you want comedy or swords/sorcery/sex/anything else beginning with s).
It was another word that disturbed me, however, the inclusion of the word dadbod. This term refers to the shape of a somewhat flabby, unfit middle-aged male.
Hm. I don’t like this. Frankly, it’s insulting to those of us who are middle-aged, overweight and not awfully good at taking exercise, despite, in my case, my on-going efforts to run regularly across Newcastle’s Town Moor or round the lanes of North Northumberland (the picture below was taken more than a decade ago: I’m still no better at running).
I mean, I happen to be acquainted with men of my age who can eat as much as they like, as far as I can see, without ever putting on weight. By contrast, I only have to look at a pastry (and I’m not even particularly addicted to those, being at heart a main-course man), and a pound or two is added to the weight – and naturally, to the waistline.
There’s something else about that word, dadbod. Those of us who appear to have successfully raised to adulthood (with a bit of help from their mother) assertive, confident and highly critical daughters don’t need our precarious position undermined any further by having a technical term applied to our body shape. As parents of a certain age go, I’m sure I cannot be alone: whenever I meet up with my daughters (who are both grown, have left home and are pursuing careers in other parts of the country) I am subjected to a certain level of scrutiny. Frankly I already hear enough comments such as “Bit of a tummy there, Dad”, and suspect that they’re counting the number of chins, to check whether that has grown.
I just don’t feel we need a technical term to describe this state. Besides, these truncated portmanteau words (pace Lewis Carroll) are lazy English. My elder daughter, an English language specialist, frequently reminds me that the way we speak and write is constantly changing. Certainly I don’t expect us all to talk in the manner of Shakespeare: for a start, no one would understand what we were saying, however elegantly our phrases were couched. And I do believe in simple, plain communication rather than pomposity (even if I do like to use such long words in columns as notwithstanding and tangentially).
This drive to abbreviate clearly stems from text-speak – and from the fact that everyone operating digitally seems to be in a hurry. But does so short and brutal a word as dadbod really make any allowance, or even give credit, for that gentle spread of the middle-aged male, a spread accompanied, after all, by a wealth of experience, accumulated wisdom and even gravitas?
Surely, as people like me see their bodies growing generously, despite their best efforts to slow the process, we can afford to be a little generous about it and at least find a more elegant, less derogatory term?