Saturday, February 14, 2009


embonpoint [awn-bawn-PWA]
n. excessive plumpness; stoutness

[From French meaning in + good + condition]

If you feel like you don't know enough descriptive nouns for round-mound, fatso, lard-ass, corpulence, obesity, heavy, husky, rotundity and so on, add embonpoint to your list. Other than its awkward French pronunciation, which is mimicked in English, the most interesting thing about embonpoint is that it literally means "in good condition." Today, when someone is overweight, he is considered in bad condition. Not so when embonpoint was coined.

In his biography of Teddy Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, Edmund Morris referred to the body of our fattest ever president, William Howard Taft, who served Roosevelt as Secretary of War, as embonpoint:
Alice, now twenty-one, and Taft were an odd couple to send halfway around the world on a steamer named, significantly enough, the Manchuria. But her floaty-hatted, butterfly charm and the Secretary's jovial purposefulness, as palpable, yet unbruising, as his embonpoint, had captivated huge crowds in Honolulu.

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