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Is "low physique" idiomatic? If not, what is the adjective to be used with physique?

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It doesn't sound idiomatic to my Canadian ears, though poking about Google Books suggests that it was generally idiomatic in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and that it apparently still is in Indian English. –  Branimir Ćaćić Jan 3 '13 at 11:26
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I know what "lowbrow, lowlife", and "low blow" mean, but I've never heard or read "low physique". What does "low physique" mean. "Lean physique" is idiomatic. What is it that you want to say about the physique? That it's low to the ground (short or hunched over), low fat, low class, low voltage, or low value? –  user21497 Jan 3 '13 at 11:52
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It sounds strange (I'm not sure what it means). Do you have a sentence you've seen with it as an example? –  Mitch Jan 3 '13 at 12:17

1 Answer 1

Low physique is not idiomatic in contemporary American or British English. Here are the top 50 collocations from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the British National Corpus (BNC):

            COCA                              BNC

 1    SOCIAL PHYSIQUE         58      MAGNIFICENT PHYSIQUE   5   
 2    MUSCULAR PHYSIQUE       26      MUSCULAR PHYSIQUE      5   
 3    LEAN PHYSIQUE           14      SUPERB PHYSIQUE        3   
 4    MALE PHYSIQUE            9      STRONG PHYSIQUE        3   
 5    TRIM PHYSIQUE            9      NATIONAL PHYSIQUE      3   
 6    ATHLETIC PHYSIQUE        7      GOOD PHYSIQUE          3   
 7    NEW PHYSIQUE             7      FRAIL PHYSIQUE         3   
 8    CHISELED PHYSIQUE        5      DIFFERENT PHYSIQUE     2   
 9    PERFECT PHYSIQUE         5      FIT PHYSIQUE           2   
10    SLENDER PHYSIQUE         5      FINE PHYSIQUE          2   
11    STRONG PHYSIQUE          5      MALE PHYSIQUE          2   
12    STURDY PHYSIQUE          5      SPLENDID PHYSIQUE      2   
13    IMPRESSIVE PHYSIQUE      4      PERFECT PHYSIQUE       2   
14    LEANER PHYSIQUE          4      STOCKY PHYSIQUE        1   
15    POWERFUL PHYSIQUE        4      YOUTHFUL PHYSIQUE      1   
16    SCULPTED PHYSIQUE        4      WIRY PHYSIQUE          1   
17    SLIGHT PHYSIQUE          4      WHOLE PHYSIQUE         1   
18    IDEAL PHYSIQUE           3      WELL-TRAINED PHYSIQUE  1   
19    FIT PHYSIQUE             3      VOLUPTUOUS PHYSIQUE    1   
20    FEMININE PHYSIQUE        3      SUPERIOR PHYSIQUE      1   
21    FEMALE PHYSIQUE          3      SLEEK PHYSIQUE         1   
22    MAGNIFICENT PHYSIQUE     3      SATANIC PHYSIQUE       1   
23    SKINNY PHYSIQUE          3      ROUND PHYSIQUE         1   
24    SLIM PHYSIQUE            3      ROTUND PHYSIQUE        1   
25    SLIMMER PHYSIQUE         3      RIPPLING PHYSIQUE      1   
26    FANTASTIC PHYSIQUE       2      REMARKABLE PHYSIQUE    1   
27    200-POUND PHYSIQUE       2      POWERFUL PHYSIQUE      1   
28    COMPACT PHYSIQUE         2      MIGHTY PHYSIQUE        1   
29    HANDSOME PHYSIQUE        2      LOVELY PHYSIQUE        1   
30    HEAVIER PHYSIQUE         2      INTERESTING PHYSIQUE   1   
31    HUGE PHYSIQUE            2      INFERIOR PHYSIQUE      1   
32    HUMAN PHYSIQUE           2      IDEAL PHYSIQUE         1   
33    LANKY PHYSIQUE           2      GREATER PHYSIQUE       1   
34    INCREDIBLE PHYSIQUE      2      GREAT PHYSIQUE         1   
35    FINE PHYSIQUE            2      FRAGILE PHYSIQUE       1   
36    LINEAR PHYSIQUE          2      FORMIDABLE PHYSIQUE    1   
37    LITHE PHYSIQUE           2      FEMALE PHYSIQUE        1   
38    MASCULINE PHYSIQUE       2      EXTRAORDINARY PHYSIQUE 1   
39    MILITARY PHYSIQUE        2      EXCEPTIONAL PHYSIQUE   1   
40    NICE PHYSIQUE            2      EMBRYONIC PHYSIQUE     1   
41    PATIENT PHYSIQUE         2      DISTINCTIVE PHYSIQUE   1   
42    PUMPED-UP PHYSIQUE       2      DAINTY PHYSIQUE        1   
43    ROBUST PHYSIQUE          2      CLASSICAL PHYSIQUE     1   
44    SINEWY PHYSIQUE          2      CHANGING PHYSIQUE      1   
45    SIX-FOOT PHYSIQUE        2      BROKEN PHYSIQUE        1   
46    STRAPPING PHYSIQUE       2      BROAD PHYSIQUE         1   
47    UNPREPOSSESSING PHYSIQUE 2      ATHLETIC PHYSIQUE      1   
48    VOLUPTUOUS PHYSIQUE      2      AMAZING PHYSIQUE       1
49    WELL-MUSCLED PHYSIQUE    2   
50    WIRY PHYSIQUE            2
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I was a bit freaked out to see social physique is twice as common as the nearest alternative. I've no idea what it means, even though it gets 3780 hits in Google Books (2/3rds of which vanish when I include "-anxiety" in my search term). Doesn't that suggest the corpuses are somewhat skewed in this one? –  FumbleFingers Jan 3 '13 at 14:14
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@FumbleFingers It's something of a false positive: "Social Physique Anxiety is a general mental condition, describing someone who’s [sic] thoughts are constantly worrying about what others think of their physical appearance." –  coleopterist Jan 3 '13 at 14:53
    
@coleopterist: I think I'd call it more than something of a "false positive". If I believed COCA/BNC, I'd think social physique outweighs muscular physique by 2:1, but Google Books suggests it's 1:4 the other way around. That's pretty misleading, considering we'd normally expect such corpuses to give us a reasonable idea of what usages actually occur, and relatively speaking, how often –  FumbleFingers Jan 3 '13 at 16:41

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