This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Unsafe Word To Use Today: submental.

I once offended a friend by pointing out that she'd just come up with an example of the pathetic fallacy.

She thought I was accusing her of telling a particularly inept lie.

Ah well.

I'm telling you this story because, as you will have realised, the same dark friend-losing danger lurks inside the word submental.

Subnormal is bad enough: but submental?

The thing is, we all have submental parts. No, not the parts that we find magically stuffing cake into our mouths when we've taken a clear and rational decision to abstain. Nor the parts that we find  have oh-so-stupidly agreed to do the ten mile charity run. Nor even the parts that buy that dress in the sale even though it's quite the wrong size and you really really hate it.

Because your submental parts have nothing whatsoever to do with stupidity.

No, really: some of the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen have had visible, and indeed bulging, submental parts:

File:Johann Sebastian Bach.jpg
J S Bach by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

Because your submental part is under your chin. That's what it means, under the chin. If you have a double - or triple - chin then you are host to a large quantity of submental fat.

It can be soothing sometimes when dealing with irritating people to make a note their submental features.

It's probably best not to point them out, though.

Unsafe Word To Use Today: submental. This word is from the Greek sub, which means under, and mentum, which means the chin.


  1. At a subconscious yet unyielding level, I am uncomfortably aware of the amount of fat collecting below my chin or, more accurately, above my ankles.

    So this all makes sense to me. Submental. Hmmmm.


    1. Things could be worse: there's a bit about Mr Eliot in Persuasion that describes him, if I remember correctly, as 'somewhat underhung'.
      It puzzled me for years.
      Apparently that can mean either he has a double chin or a large lower jaw.
      Underhung v submental. Not an easy choice for everyone.

  2. One of my favorite, although currently disturbing, Wodehouse descriptions is "The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say `When!'"

    I think I would prefer to be underhung than submental or 'generously poured.'