Chew the fat

Chew the fat is an idiom with an uncertain origin. 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.

Examples

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)