Posted by Word Camel on March 13, 2003
In Reply to: Phat posted by ESC on March 13, 2003
: : Okay, I searched the archives and the meanings section and cannot come up with the origin of this word. Can anybody help out?
: There is a long section on this word in a reference. It says, in part:
: "Word History: Phat - Phat at first glance is a virgin slang word, an inventive new superlative (meaning either sexy or cool) conceived of and delivered in the rap idiom of hip-hop culture. In the Fall 1994 issue of 'American Speech,' John and Adele Algeo postulate that 'phat' may have been devised as an acronym for "Pretty Hips And Thighs'; others have speculated that it was drawn from 'physically attractive.' If you forget the cute spelling though, and look at 'fat,' the explanation is probably a lot simpler. Early slang lexicographers B. E. Gent in the 17th century, Francis Grose in the 18th century, and John Camden Hotten n the 19th century all define 'fat' as a slang term for 'rich.' That meaning survives in the 19th century in the slang of gamblers and African-Americans." There is a long section on various published uses of the word as "fat" and "phat." that suggests that "in the early 1990s, 'fat' evolved to 'phat,' but the trail is not all that simple." For example, "an August 2, 1963, article on 'Negro argot' in 'Time,' one finds 'phat' listed as one of several 'adjectives of approval.'" One researcher recorded the use of "phat" in 1973 and didn't see the spelling again until 1981. From "Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang" by Tom Dalzell (Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Md., 1996). Page 215-215.
This is phascinating. I have also seen "phun" for 'fun' in the context of a rave, but I suspect it was just fanciful spelling.