Word of the Week: Loser

The word loser evokes strong feelings, especially for anyone who has had it thrown at them with malice. I’ve had it fired at me with the force of a crossbow, but I’ve also had it lovingly applied to the center of my forehead as though it were a shiny gold star.

To me, loser is almost a reclaimed word. When I was by turns struggling to, and not to, come of age in the early 1980s a lot of words that have since been reclaimed weren’t always meant in a good way: girl, chick, bitch, geek, nerd, queer. And these are only the ones I have personal experience with reclaiming. Sometimes losing something is the best way to go. One can “lose” a cheating spouse, or you can lose the equivalent of a person in body weight.

One of my current WIPs is about a man, Ross, who loses 98 pounds on Weight Watchers and becomes a Lifetime Member. He thinks that’s the end of a journey, but of course that can’t be true or there wouldn’t be much of a story. Ross learns a lot about the people in his life as a result of his weight loss, and about himself and what he’s willing to do (or at least try :)) for love, friendship, and a chance at happiness. The story began with an image of him reluctantly going to the front of the meeting to get his Lifer swag and celebrate his accomplishment, his work-out buddy whistling like a Teamster, in her hand a boquet of balloons shaped like donuts and cupcakes. His leader is modeled after one of my Weight Watchers leaders, who started every meeting with the greeting: “Hello, losers!” She’d lost over 100 pounds herself and was a great influence on my own weight loss and self-image, not to mention this story.

So far, hanging out with Ross and his buddy Janet has been a lot of fun, with the added bonus of helping me recommit to eating healthy. Mostly. Guilt can be helpful. In 2003 I became a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers, but I haven’t kept it all off. Sadly, hours at the keyboard don’t count as cardio, but my fingers and parts of my brain are pretty buff! Strong enough to grapple with words like Loser.

For all my fellow word nerds, the origins of Loser:


1300–50; Middle English losere,  destroyer.

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