Chewing the Fat - Meaning, Usage and Origin

Are you meeting up with a friend to catch up with each other? Maybe you're getting together with a group to talk about a common subject in a lighthearted manner? If that's the case, you're going to spend some time "chewing the fat" with each other.

Chewing the fat refers to having a conversation with other people you know about topics you enjoy. The conversation tone is informal and extensive, lasting for a while. You could be meeting friends at your book club to chew the fat on the latest releases or chewing the fat on the relationships in your lives.

Let's unpack the origins and use cases for using "chewing the fat" in conversation.

Chewing the Fat Meaning

"Chewing the fat" refers to a lighthearted discussion you find engaging and entertaining. Typically, you'll have this discussion with friends or family members you haven't seen in a while. If you're chewing the fat, it means that you either talk or gossip about events in your lives and give each other support and agreement.

Chewing the Fat Example Usage

There are several ways to use "chewing the fat" in a sentence. Most of them refer to a pleasant outcome or anticipated meeting with friends or family. Here are a few examples of how to use it in a sentence.

  • "I meet up with the ladies from book club and, we spent hours chewing the fat about everything going on in our lives."
  • "I met my brother to catch up and, we spent hours chewing the fat about the past year's events."
  • "I saw Elaine at the shops and, we spent a few hours chewing the fat about our old days hanging out at the mall."
  • "All our friends are coming over, and we'll spend some time chewing the fat."

Chewing the Fat Origin

"Chewing the fat" is an idiomatic expression used to describe lighthearted banter or gossip between friends or family members. Typically, it represents a random conversation, but it can also define a planned-out scenario, such as an informal meeting.

The idiom has its origins in North America, where the Native American people would meet with settlers and talk about their cultures while chewing on some pork fat.

Some historians suggest the idiom may also come from the movement of the mouth when chewing fat. The phrase caught popular mention as a way to describe conversations held over long periods, typically a few hours, while chewing on pig fat.

British farmers would chew on fried pigs fat (crackling) while chatting with other farmers. Sailors would also chew on pigs fat for hours to give them energy when out at sea and talking to other crew members.

Phrases Similar to Chewing the Fat

Several phrases are similar to "chewing the fat." Generally, these phrases all refer to lighthearted verbal exchanges between two or more people.

You could be chewing the fat with a group of people or with an old friend.  Here are a few examples of how to use the idiom.

  • To "shoot the bull."
  • To "run off at the mouth."
  • To "shoot the breeze."
  • To "catch up with the gossip."
  • To "schmooze with friends."
  • To "knock around a few ideas."
  • To meet up with friends and "have a yack."

Phrases Opposite to Chewing the Fat

Chewing the fat refers to a friendly conversation that lasts for a few hours. However, it doesn't refer to arguments or deep, serious discussions with others. Here are some phrases with the opposite meaning to chewing the fat.

  • To discuss a "bone of contention."
  • To have a "formal discussion."
  • To have an interview or meeting.

What is the Correct Saying?

When using the idiom "chewing the fat," it's essential to use it in the right context. For instance, meeting your neighbor outside to discuss the dogs barking for a few minutes is not chewing the fat on the topic. Similarly, chewing the fat is not an expression referring to an argument; it's a friendly conversation.

  • To discuss old times.
  • To chat about life in general in an upbeat manner.
  • To catch up with old friends over the phone.

Ways People May Say Chewing the Fat Incorrectly

Some people may use the idiom incorrectly to describe short-term serious conversations or arguments. Here are some incorrect uses for chewing the fat.

  • I spent an hour with my boss chewing the fat over an important client contract.
  • I was chewing the fat with the lawyer about my case.
  • I was chewing the fat with the landlord about my outstanding rent.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Chewing the Fat

Chewing the fat is suitable for use in various informal settings. Some people may also use the term "chew the fat." Here are a few other ways to use "chewing the fat" in a sentence.

  • I went for coffee with Andrea, and we spent hours chewing the fat about our lives.
  • I was chewing the fat with dad about the old days when he was a youngster.

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