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Chew the fat? 闲聊

中国日报网 2021-06-04 13:10


Reader question:

Please explain “chew the fat” in this sentence: The coffee shop in the office canteen is the perfect place to sit and chew the fat.

My comments:

This means the coffee shop is perfect for a get-together where office workers sit and chat.

That is, sit and chat leisurely and aimlessly.

Some people suggest that “chew the fat” has a literal meaning, alluding to, say, the Inuit people of the Arctic chewing a piece of whale blubber while they sit and talk. The Inuit, of course, have a lot of time on their hands. More than half of the year, it’s too cold to venture outside their snow huts. So you can visualize them chewing a piece of blubber, just like people in the modern city chewing a bubblegum.

Whether this is actually the case no one know for sure, but such a story should be sufficient to give us a picture of what it’s like to chew the fat.

There’s little one can get, of course, from literally chewing on a piece of fat. And, so, therefore, if one’s talk is likened to chewing the fat, you can imagine that perhaps nothing important or insightful is said, just a lot of movement of the jaw is seen and on display.

In colloquialism, at any rate, that sort of jawing is synonymous to empty talk. We say, for example, don’t take so-and-so seriously, because he’s 99 percent jaw.


All right, here are media examples of people chewing the fat:

1. As a volunteer with Collier-Lee Honor Flight since 2015, Rick Wobbe has met a lot of World War II veterans and heard their stories.

But one in particular wasn’t eager to share.

“We’d ask him, and he’d say, ‘No, I don’t want to talk about it.’”

They knew Gerry Danmeier, now a resident of Lee County, was in the Navy in the Pacific theater, but not much beyond that.

“Gerry would just never talk about it. We nagged him forever. He’d say he was just doing his job.”

But with the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day being commemorated Aug. 15 and the number of veterans of that era dwindling, Wobbe made one last try.

“You were there. There are very few of you left,” Wobbe said he told Danmeier. “You’re living history. This history needs to be told.”

Danmeier relented and sat down with Wobbe, who handles media relations for Collier-Lee Honor Flight, over a plate of barbecue to tell his story.

The result is a 2,300-word account that Wobbe wrote and posted on the group’s Facebook page, along with pictures Danmeier provided.

It begins with Danmeier, then 15, hearing about the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

He had to wait two years before he could enlist, getting his grandmother to sign the necessary papers.

Within days of finishing basic training he was assigned to a new ship built to disgorge tanks onto a beach, known as an LST, or landing ship tank.

“Within a day or two we were loaded up, pushed off, and were headed for the Pacific Ocean. None of us knew where,” he recounted.

The where turned out to be the string of Pacific islands the Allies invaded one by one as they made their way toward the Japanese mainland.

“Gerry spoke of the somber mood that encompassed the LST the entire time he was stationed there. Not all these boys would come home,” Wobbe wrote.

His job was to man a machine gun to ward off air attacks of which there were many.


Danmeier is now 94 and enjoys getting together with fellow veterans he met through Honor Flight.

They “chew the fat,” Wobbe said, but Danmeier is still a reluctant storyteller. “He didn’t want to be a hero,” he said.

- Brent Batten: Reluctant hero shares story on 75th anniversary of V-J Day, NaplesNews.com, August 15, 2020.

2. Locking down for another wee while and preparing for a “digital Christmas”. No more going down the pub or off out to our favourite restaurants. No more popping into town for a coffee and a blether with friends. No, we are being told everywhere that life is about to change again. We are going back to the future or March, April, May this year. But, it’s not bad news for everyone. Us introverts get another shot at peace and quiet.

But, what is an introvert? Essentially, we have a lot going on inside our heads. We like to keep this to ourselves or just tell a selected few friends and family members. We get our energy from being alone and thinking. We prefer one to one conversations rather than big gatherings. In short, we abhor noise, noisy people and noisy places. So, another stint at lockdown is code for introverts as “party time”. But with no guests and no DJ.

Notwithstanding the terrible economic and social consequences of this pandemic, introverts are getting some “me” time. That said, if the politicians in Westminster were more open to Modern Monetary Theory rather than measly scraps of help here and there, there would be more cheer as we enter the festive period. But, I’m sick telling them that their reliance on old school traditional economic advisors is misplaced. I will have another go at it next Wednesday here in the Scotsman. I digress…. Back to that serene and quiet time that descends upon us introverts when the noisy people are corralled in their homes.

Having spent decades having to put up with noisy people, this period of confinement is absolute heaven. I don’t believe that being an introvert is a handicap or ailment. No, it’s just a different way that we are wired up that leads us to seek the shelter of our own space and our own heads. And noisy, loud and extroverted folks cause us great pain. Not in a toothache way or slip and hurt a knee fashion. No, it’s more like a teacher scrapping her long nails slowly and deliberately down an old style blackboard that screeches at high pitch. This noise creates a judder right down the spine and almost makes one shiver. That is what it is like being on a train with loud and extroverted people. Excruciating.

Actually when I read what I’ve just written, some may in fact feel that we introverts do suffer from some form of mental health issue. But, I can assure you that for 50 per cent of the population, that is not the case. We simply think more and chat less. And lockdowns provide the perfect setting to avoid you pesky extroverts.

No more train journeys on the commute where we seek a quiet carriage or at the very least a quiet seat. You will spot us a mile away as we look to sit with fellow introverts who are not talking, looking out the window and perhaps wearing earbuds [with the music turned down low so it doesn’t disturb our fellow introverts]. When we hear noisy folks guffawing and laughing, while shouting at each other, we look at them with that old Christopher Reeve Superman stare imagining we have a heat ray that emanates from our eyes - zapping them into silence. Many is a time, that I’ve stared at folks magically hoping they would pipe down.

You will also spot the introverts in coffee shops and cafes when they all re-open - if they ever do. They will sit with their backs to a wall. Why? Not for safety, but because they then have no-one behind them yapping in their earholes. There is method in the madness to how an introvert seeks solace in public spaces. They will of course be quiet and observe people or read or quietly listen to private music. No loud conservations on mobile phones like extroverts do, chewing the fat with people who are not even in the coffee shop.

So as you can see many of us in what we call society or the community actually enjoy silence or quiet conversation. It’s not a crime to want to keep the noise down eh? And lockdown, with all the negative stuff that goes with it, permits us introverts to live a quieter life. It actually makes me think about growing old, living alone or being locked down as an extrovert. It must have the same effects on them as introverts have with noisy people and situations.

- Why lockdown is heaven for introverts like me - Jim Duffy, Scotsman.com, October 30, 2020.

3. Larry King, the man who liked to hear the world’s stories, passed away aged 87 on Saturday. He’d been admitted to Cedars-Sinai medical center in LA with Covid symptoms.

There was no mistaking the bespectacled King, known for his “trademark suspenders” and “gravelly New York accent”, as described by The Guardian. He was a big time interviewer and broadcaster with an average Joe style.

The Guardian mentions his “meandering interviews and personal digressions”. For King, these were essential tools in making the subject feel at ease and entertaining the audience. The New York Times writes he had “the folksy personality of a Bensonhurst schmoozer”.

He famously avoided preparing for on air encounters. “I think the guest should be the expert” he wrote in his 2009 memoir. This rule sustained him through a career that spanned over 6 decades and tens of thousands of interviews.

Former delivery boy King found himself face to face with American Presidents – every occupant of the White House from Nixon onwards was on his list.

That said, he’d talk to anyone. Conspiracy theorists were invited for a chat alongside the likes of A Listers and iconic figures. It wasn’t uncommon for King to say things like “Gee whiz!” during an interview, reinforcing his authentic credentials.

He was born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger in New York, 1933. Father Aaron, an Austrian, ran a restaurant and sadly died when Larry was 9. Mother Jennie, who hailed from Lithuania, was a garment worker.

The young Larry’s interest in broadcasting paid off when he went to work at a Florida radio station in the late 1950s. When a DJ quit the decks, King was asked to hit the decks.

Reportedly his debut was far from assured, but this future star of the airwaves soon settled into it. The name change from Zeiger to King came from the station manager and happened at the last minute. Why “King”? A liquor ad provided the inspiration!

Making his recently-acquired name as an interviewer and sports commentator, he partially followed in his father’s footsteps by broadcasting from a restaurant – Pumpernik’s at Miami Beach. There he chewed the fat with notables such as Jimmy Hoffa and Don Rickles, as reported by the Times.

The national scene beckoned in 1978, where King hosted a call in program for the Mutual Broadcasting System. It must have been a big deal for King, as this was where one of his favorite shows ‘The Lone Ranger’ was made.

In 1985 CNN hired him to front the legendary ‘Larry King Live’, where he remained behind the desk for a quarter of a century.

- Larry King: Legend of the American Airwaves Passes at 87, TheVintageNews.com, January 26, 2021.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Identity politics? 身份政治


Reality check? 现实核查


Let them off the hook? 摆脱困境


A dog-eared phrase? 老旧的说法