Chew the fat is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying chew the fat, where it may have come from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
Chew the fat means to converse idly, to make small talk, to gossip. The expression chew the fat invokes the imagery of jaws working furiously in an opening and closing motion. The phrase chew the fat did not come into use until the latter-1800s; at that time, chew the fat meant to grouse or complain. The expression chew the fat may have a maritime source. Sailors were said to pass the time on ship chewing salted, dried fat, a snack that would have taken considerable chewing to ingest. Another possible origin of the idiom chew the fat is the Inuit, who chewed fat off hides to soften them. Related phrases are chews the fat, chewed the fat, chewing the fat.
Sometimes, the discussion just involves an extra minute to chew the fat with someone, but a little extra time always gives opportunity to discuss things which could have an effect on one’s care. (The Optometry Times)
If you’re feeling sociable, call a friend so that you can exercise and chew the fat at the same time. (The Sydney Morning Herald)
Like its namesake, Fletcher’s is a throwback to the era when neighborhood barber shops were half business and half conversation spot — hole-in-the-wall places with a striped barber pole outside and extra chairs inside to wait your turn, chew the fat, or both. (The Alton Telegraph)