17 Years Ago Today

Heavy Set



Heavy Set
Grandmother was a stout woman.


*Heavy set = overweight

*Stout = overweight

In Appalachia we use heavy set and stout to describe someone who is overweight.

A few weeks ago, I watched a video about Appalachia's colorful language. The gentleman being interviewed looked to be in his late 60s or early 70s. He said his grandmother used the word stout to describe someone who was overweight. He said he didn't hear many people use the word to describe an overweight person now these days. 

Using heavy set and stout to describe an overweight person is still alive and well in my area of Appalachia. Why do we use the terms instead of just saying someone is overweight? Because we often go to great lengths to keep from offending anyone in our daily conversations.


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My great aunt is 90 and uses the term 'fallin' off' if you are losing weight and 'fleshnin'up if you are gaining weight......

I've heard both used up north and down south as well as the word "overweight" which seems rude to me because it's judgmental.

To me though, heavy set and stout are two different things. To me, "stout" means someone rather round and short ("I'm a little teapot, short and stout" - LOL), while "heavy set" to me means someone tall and heavier than most.

And then there's "big boned" which I think was used as an excuse for someone's whose weight was more than normal in someone else's eyes.

When it comes to me though, I'm a stout little teapot that sometimes boils over when I get all steamed up. ROFLOL LOL LOL

God bless.


My mom always said "heavy-set" or "stout" when describing overweight people.

Geography wasn't my forte. Can you tell? My language skills were worse. But I'll keep trying til I get it wright. write, rite, right?

I remember a Chubbette line of clothes for girls in the late fifties and early sixties. I didn't wear it. My friend did. I was a "stick".

Popular words in these part. Wouldn't know how to talk any other way.. lol.

Here in central WV., "heavyset" and "stout" were both used by my grandfather. He would also describe someone, especially a woman, as "fleshy".

Heavy set: generally means large person,, on my Mother in law's side of the family most all the boys were Tall heavy set men, several of the girls were to, I'll not mention who,,there was 12 kids in all, but the phrase is common, most of the Men were stout, meaning they could pick up a transmission with no problem.. Can't wait for the song..

and Sam...your Aunt was a smart woman...Rubenesque or Rubenian is directly associated with the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens..His portraits included larger women, they were not "sirens" as some call the shapely ones here in Appalachia! They were generally heavy shaped women with a mature look. One comes to mind "The Three Graces" by Rubens. I remember looking in the library books when I was a kid of the old Dutch and Flemish painters and thinking "maybe this fleshy thing ain't so bad after all"!...If someone like Rubens was willing to paint them. Incorporating them in some of his more religious paintings, a lot of men were usually more heavy than muscular as well.
Well, I think your aunt was right on about her Rubenesque physique.
Thanks Tipper,

When we visited kin along Roaring Creek, NC in my early childhood, they used to say I was "healthy looking."
I heard a not so flattering term used to desribe a bottom-heavy girl as "tandem axle."

Make that longitude but not her latitude.

Apparently your girls have inherited their g-g-grandmother's latitude but not her longitude.

Ed-its Dollie Sharp : )

Blind Pig The Acorn
Celebrating and Preserving the
Culture of Appalachia

I think we must all have had grandparents who looked like yours, very thin men & "stout" women. They had good laps to sit on for hugs & kisses.

I've been buying jackets labeled "Stout" all my adult life, this is common all over the US. Likewise, heavy set is common here in Cleveland.

I had an aunt who said she wasn't fat, she was rubenesque (Not sure about spelling. But then, she was a flatlander.

Yesterday was a nice blog and I'm
pleased the way all your readers
"took to" Chitter and Chatter.

Most of us Appalachians tend to
"beat around the bush" a bit when
describing one's size or health.
But some of our friends (not from
around here) tend to speak too
direct, and that causes problems.
Courteously and kindness still
rule here in the Mountains...Ken

So is the lady in the picture Dollie Sharpe or Daisy Burkhart?

I remember when the catalog had Husky sizes for boy's pants.

We still use these terms. Heavy is used by itself instead of heavy set. Stout usually means they have a muscular aspect also. I have also heard thick used to describe someone that is stout. She was stout and thick.

I always heard my grandparents say "how healthy" someone was (I guess it wasn't healthy at all).

I'll take stout any day over "pleasantly plump." One of my late Daddy's favorites was "he/she is big as a skint' mule." He also had a friend from childhood whose nickname was "Sow Belly." The man certainly looked as if he'd swallowed a watermelon seed long ago & it had fully ripened inside his tummy. I love your pic for this piece, it reminded me of my maternal g'parents. Mimaw was stouter than Pipaw & even though she was eleven years his junior, he allowed himself to be hen-pecked & happily married to her for 60 yrs. until he passed on in 1996.

I remember a brand name or clothing section of a store called "Stylish Stouts".

I also think that overweight carries negative implications while stout or heavy set implies strength or resilience as well.

My Nana would have said,"She's heavy set and ought to go to reducin'" Then if the person "fell off" too much, she would comment about how "poor" they look. "Her little ole arms are so poor."

Both words - heavyset and stout - are alive and well in my world. I don't hear "fat" when I hear those words as much as I hear solid and strong. And "stout" also has a connotation of reliable, "a stout fellow to have at your back."

But I guess you're right; these days we've been conditioned to associate weight with either too much ("bad") or too little ("good") and it's hard to think of ANY weight-related term as just a description, not a judgement. Oh well. I was a skinny young woman and now I'm well on my way to being a stout old woman, and it's aches and pains that bother me - I don't often think about my weight at all.

You presented an interesting subject. Some people are very cruel when someone is overweight or big. I like what I call the more gentle way of describing a person. Why are people are so judgemental and unkind really bothers me? Thanks for sharing to your readers that there is another way to describe someone and not be cruel.

I hear and use "heavy set" and "stout" on a regular basis. My Papaw used "healthy" to describe somebody that was overweight. He always found a nice way to put things. :)

I'm built for comfort, not for speed!!!!!!

I have always been a bit heavy set myself and I grew up hearing stout and heavy set on a pretty regular basis. Now that I have been a city gal for almost 20 years, I don't hear these terms much anymore.

While tagging along with my father and his friends hunting and fishing in the 1950s, I often heard the word "stout" used to describe someone who is physically powerful. It was used admiringly or at least respectfully.

Often the man (and "stout" always referred to men) was a heavy-set (not always a negative) fellow with a barrel chest and powerful arms.

Another term always used with admiration was to describe someone powerfully built as "much a man."

Also, I have heart stout to refer both to heavy and strong.

I may have mentioned this before. My Grandmother would say when seeing us after a while, those boys are gettin' stout! They were not fat but obviously strong and healthy. Me she would say, she's still fleshy...Oh, how I hated that word, especially coming from her! She was a might fleshy herownself! LOL I would never ever say so to her. I've been called heavy-set, (which I still use the word today) and stout. Back when those words were used on me, I really wasn't that fleshy! I thought I was and I think I lived up to everyones expectations included my own...
I was very sick as a young child, and anemic although not skinny.
The doctor told Mama to dose me with vitamins, cod liver oil, etc. ect...I got better and I gained some weight, and some more and some more! Mama always said that is why I always had trouble losing weight...She said I needed an antibotic instead of vitamins...We always had balanced meals at home, beans, greens, cornbread...LOL Oh, and the best home cranked ice cream you ever did taste!
Thanks for this post Tipper,
Being fleshy, stout, heavy set is a lot better'n than being "FAT"
Yep, those are much better descriptions! LOL

Oh my, my Mother n law would always say , she sure is a stout girl. Now all the grandkids say it too. Im happy to know that we aren't the only ones using that word. Barbara

Ed Reed must be some of my kin or at least from my hometown. Where I'm from, being heavy-set was a good thing. If a person was 'flashy', they were healthy and if they 'fell away', it was time to see the doctor. I don't recall ever hearing of anyone going on a diet when I was growing up.

I've heard and used 'heavy set' and 'stout' all my life. Mama used 'stocky' to describe a person who wasn't very tall, but a healthy weight. She would say, "He's short and stocky." Don't know if she learned the term from her Lincoln County Dad or her South Carolina raised Mama.

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