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What Is a "Fat Head"?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term “fat head” is often used as a childish insult in schools across the English-speaking world. The insult has two basic meanings: someone who is stupid or someone who has a big ego. “Big head” and “fat face” are related insults. The term fat head can also describe other things like fish.

When related to ego, the insult “fat head” is a way of putting a person in his or her place. A person has a higher opinion of himself or herself than is reflected in the opinion of another or of the group. In this sense, “fat” could just be a more insulting term than “big.” It is possible that “big head” and “fat head” were separate insults that merged together at some point.

“Well, you’re stupid” is the last refrain of a bully lacking in wit and invention. Children naturally latch on to distinctive physical qualities of a person and use them as terms of insult. These include hair or skin color, height and weight. The person does not have to be overweight for him or her to be deemed a “fat head.”

The recipient of this insult also does not have to be stupid. The insult can also be used, in logic-twisting scenes, against someone who proves themselves to be more intelligent. Why fat has been conflated with low intelligence is unknown, but it may be related to insults such as “as thick as two short planks.”

“Fat head” also relates to a number of other things. There are a number of species of fish that are referred to as “fat head” variants. These include the fathead minnow, fathead carp, a species of sculpin and of cubiceps. The minnows are found across northern America and Canada, while the fathead carp is native to Asia.

The term “fat head” also appears in media and culture. It is the nickname of jazz musician David Newman and the title of his 1960 album. It is also the name of a Jamaican disc jockey and the name of a hip hop band based in the American city of Philadelphia. A 2009 film used “Fat Head” as its title when director Tom Naughton sought to debunk many of the claims made in “Super Size Me.”

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Mar 21, 2014

Maybe a musician reading this can answer, but seems like I remember seeing where a fathead was some kind of term for a guitar part. Does anyone know?

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