by Kate Woodford
Recently on this blog, we looked at the words that we use to describe the way we move. This week we’re looking at words for describing our bodies when they are still, whether we are standing or sitting.
Since most of us do far too much of this, let’s start with sitting. When you are working at your desk, how would you describe your posture (= the way that you hold your shoulders, neck and back)? Do you sit upright, (=with a straight back) or are you slumped or hunched, with your head low and shoulders forward?: He sat slumped at his desk./She spent the evening slumped in front of the TV. If you are relaxing, you may be reclining, leaning back with the upper part of your body in an almost horizontal position: I was reclining on the sofa when he called. If you are very relaxed, you may even be sprawled, with your arms and legs spread out in a careless and untidy way: He lay sprawled on the sofa in his pyjamas.
While walking, a person, (especially a tall person), may stoop, meaning that they have their head and shoulders permanently bent forwards and down: He’s tall but he stoops. A slightly different meaning of the same verb is ‘to bend the top half of the body forward and down for a short while, especially in order to do something’: The doorway was so low that we had to stoop to go through it.
Some words for posture also suggest an attitude or feeling. If you describe someone as slouching, you mean that their head and shoulders bend forwards and down but you are also suggesting that they look a little bored or lazy: A couple of teenagers were slouching around outside the building. ‘Hunched’ (above) may also suggest that someone’s shoulders are brought up towards their neck because they are cold: She stood with her shoulders hunched in the cold. If someone is huddled, they are holding their arms and legs close to their body, especially because of cold or fear: A small child sat huddled in the corner. Meanwhile, if someone is bent double, they are standing with their upper body curved forwards and down towards the ground, often as a result of pain or laughter: She stood behind me, bent double with pain.