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20 Jun. “To chew the fat.” What are the origins of this English expression?

This English expressions is relatively commonly used. Despite initial impressions given by this expression it does not relate to “fat” or to the act of eating in any way. If you want to find out more about its origin and learn what it does mean then keep reading!


The expression is used to denote the act of chatting without having a particular purpose in mind. It relates to the idea of chatting idly, or chit-chatting, and wasting time in doing so.


It is suggested that the expression originates from the times when after a meal the guests and hosts would retire to the living room in order to chat and literally chew any fat which was left over from the meal. Another suggestion has nautical connotations and relates to sailors who would often eat salted beef and pork on their journeys. The fat on these meats would harden and therefore the sailors would commonly complain that life at sea was hard due to the fact they were obliged to literally “chew the fat.”

The expression has a number of variants and very commonly the phrase “chew the cud” is used. The first usage of this expression can be found in Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel The History of Tom Jones which reads “having left her a little while to chew the cud, if I may use that expression, on these first tidings.”


An example of this expression can be found in a quote from comic book writer, Erik Larson, which reads “I’m an overgrown fan so it’s always fun to hang out with my fellow fans and chew the fat.”

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