What’s Up Big Man, and Other Demeaning Names

When you live in this world you will encounter strangers, and when you are a big guy or gal you will encounter a lot more just from being bigger. When you meet these people if they are friendly, they will try to communicate with you. There is nothing wrong with that; the world needs more friendly people. My gripe is with the greeting that people tend to use when they wish to get attention from a big guy.

“Hey Boss Man!”

“Hey Big Guy”

“Yo Chief!”

These are just a few of the terms that I have personally encountered in the past 31 years. As far back as I can remember I have always been the big guy in the room and being addressed this way always made me feel like the smallest and most insignificant in the room as well. Yelling, “Hey Big guy!” at me just signifies that you don’t seem to have any real vested interest in meeting me, and the only thing you think that I bring to the table is my size. I know part of this is me being in my own head, but also, it is how the “Normal” people see the obese members of the population.

In a skinny world being large makes you the social pariah so in an act of pity, you bestow a nickname that seems fitting of the “poor” soul you just encountered.

I know this is not how a lot of people think, but after years of being addressed as such by people of vastly different backgrounds and cultures, It makes me wonder. Is that a common thought process if you are “Skinny”? I would never see someone smaller than me that I do not know and yell out “Hey tiny man!” or “What’s up small dude?”. That is insulting and rude. So, why is it okay to disregard an obese person’s god-given name? My mom gave me a perfectly good name, why not take the time to ask me what my name is?

The obesity rate in America has crept up to near 40%, this means sadly there are a lot of us who fit the category of Obese. More of a chance for people to meet someone and ask them their name instead of some derogatory name such as Big Guy. It’s already hard enough trying to fit into a skinny world at least let us be ourselves instead of stripping our names and reducing us to size-related nomenclature. I am proud to be who I am, I do not want to be your “Boss man” or “Big Guy”. I have Native American blood in my veins, but I for darn sure am not your “Chief”! I am LeTavious Roymar Hemingway. I am Obese and I am working on it. I deserve the chance to meet you and for you to meet me, not for you to ironically belittle me by giving me such a title.

Am I not worth meeting just because I am large? A large person in your life is still just a person, give them dignity.

I will calmly climb off my soapbox now but remember if we meet on the street one day, ask for my name before you decide to name me yourself. It is much appreciated.


LeTavious Hemingway
LeTavious Hemingway
LeTavious Roymar Hemingway was born and raised in Conway, South Carolina. He was raised by parents who lived through the civil rights era so he was taught to express himself and love everyone. He took these values to college and started to write poetry and short stories. In college he pursued his love of writing and his love of science, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. After meeting his future wife in college, she urged him to write and complete a novel. Two novels later he still writes poetry and stories as he works as a laboratory supervisor at a veterinary hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Now as a father of a healthy baby boy he looks to share his writing with the world to show him that anything is possible as long as you work hard and dedicate yourself to it.

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  1. Outstanding lessons learned here, thanks for sharing!
    In general, we can resort to some discreet questions that will give us the opportunity to get to know a person more deeply and an indication of his way of thinking and his tastes. This will allow us a better coexistence.

  2. I completely agree with you, LeTavious, that it’s important, actually-essential, that we meet people in the intersection of dignity and respect, and take the time to learn what another person’s name is (or what they loved to be called) -and let them know the name we like to be called. Being called “Ma’am” “Four-eyes” “Shrimp” or Wolf-Whistled or “Little Lady”— all these fall in this same category as the list of ways you’ve been disrespected. I recently walked over to introduce myself to my new neighbors (social distance). The woman at first told me her name was Nicole, but quickly let me know she liked being called Star and her husband let me know his name is Torch. When I see them I say hello to Star and Torch. This becomes the gateway to getting to know who people are, what they care about, what matters to them, what joys we can find in common. I look forward to the day when all of us can greet one another by the name we love being called and listen for what’s important in our hearts.
    Thank you for this important reminder! Welcome to BizCatalyst360!

  3. One of the most important things that I have learned in spending exactly twice as much time on the planet as you… is this: People may not like their names, but they are much more likely to engage and relax when you use that name. Part of it may be laziness, part of it may be our need to group people together so we don’t have to think so hard about someone’s uniqueness and therefore we can use a broad brush in our interaction with them.

    I had a volunteer position a number of years ago, and there was a woman who I had “heard” was difficult and unpredictable. She had a somewhat common name, but she spelled it somewhat unusually. I made a point of always spelling it as she did, and I can’t tell you what a wonderful relationship we had and how often she referred to my spelling her name right. Our names are not only central to our identities, they are so much of who we are and how others remember us.

    Nicknames and other forms of reference need to be part of that social contract of when people know each other and are comfortable around each other. We have names, they come in handy as forms of address.

    Were you and I to become friends… which would be an honor, you would need to become accustomed to hearing me use all 24 letters that make up your fabulous name. Thank you for this great reminder, and welcome to the BC360 platform. I really look forward to learning more from you.

    • Thank you so much! It does mean a lot we someone actually takes the time to learn how to pronounce my name. It shows me that you care and it makes me feel like a grateful, normal person.

  4. Thanks again for writing this one LeTavious. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum but have encountered similar issues. I was pretty sick at one point in my life and couldn’t gain weight. It was disheartening to hear people I knew (and strangers) tell me I should “eat a hamburger” or say they wished they could be as skinny as me. I often would wonder if they wanted the health issues to go along with the dilapidated figure that made me feel inadequate.

    As you said, I may have been partially living in my head, my weight was always on my mind. But shouldn’t people think before they speak? We are all going through something, no one is floating around without a trouble in the world. Empathy and compassion can go a long way. Th way we speak to one another – jokingly or not – is important.

    • You are so right, everyone is going through their own personal battles. Thought should be put into every conversation to avoid setting off landmines you didn’t intend to step on. Thank you so much for reading!