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Slapping (strike)

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Title: Slapping (strike)  
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Slapping (strike)

Slapping, in a Shimer College production of Eurydice.

A slap or "smack" is a broad stroke made with the open hand or the back of the hand, as opposed to a punch that is made with a closed fist. Slaps are frequently made across the face, but can be also made across hands or any other body part. Typically "slapping" refers to a blow with the open palm of the hand.[1] A slap with the back of the hand is typically identified as a "backhand slap" and, on occasion, a "pimp slap."


  • Etymology and definitions 1
  • Usage and meaning 2
  • Cultural aspects 3
  • Popular entertainment 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Etymology and definitions

The word was first recorded in 1632, probably of imitative origin.[2] It shares its beginning consonants with several other English words related to violence, such as "slash", "slay", and "slam".[3] The word is found in several English colloquialisms, such as, "slap fight", "slap-happy", "slapshot", "slapstick", "slap on the wrist" (as a mild punishment), "slap in the face" (as an insult or, alternatively, as a reproof against a lewd or insulting comment), and "slap on the back" (an expression of friendship or congratulations). In music, the term is used in jazz, referring to the action of pulling strings back and allowing them to smack the instrument.

"Bitch slap" is African-American slang that dates back to the 1990s.[4] It is used to mean killing a woman, or to refer to a woman hitting a man, or a woman or gay man haranguing somebody, or a man hitting someone else in an effeminate way.[4] Bitch slap has also been used in American prisons since the 1990s to refer to slapping instead of punching, with the implication that the perpetrator isn't "man enough" to deliver a closed-fist punch.[4]

For about five years beginning in 2004, happy slapping became a UK fad. Happy slapping is the phenomenon whereby kids assault someone while being taped by a friend on their mobile phone: afterwards the video is uploaded to a site like YouTube.[5][6][7] Media coverage of the alleged trend led to a nationwide moral panic, including a call by one Member of Parliament for schools to block mobile phone signals.[8]

Usage and meaning

The purpose of a slap is often to humiliate, more than injure. A "slap in the face" is a common idiom, dating back to the late 1800s, that means to rebuke, rebuff or insult.[9]

In his 2004 text The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body, anthropologist Desmond Morris defines what he calls the "cheek slap," which he describes as "the classic action of a lady responding to the unwelcome attentions of a male." Morris categorizes the cheek slap as a display blow, meaning one that is impossible to ignore but doesn't cause much damage.[10]

The word "slap" is frequently used to minimize the perceived violence of an act, even if the act was especially severe. One person may hit another across the face and injure him/her severely, but in calling it a slap, it may seem less severe, since slapping is often associated with minor violence.[11][12]

Cultural aspects

Slapping is viewed differently by different cultures. In Iceland, slapping of children is viewed as an extreme form of physical abuse, whereas in the United Kingdom it is seen by only some parents as abusive, and even then only moderately so.[13] A 1998 Indian study found a high rate of approval for husbands slapping their wives, particularly among husbands and middle-class Indians.[14]

In some cultures, when girls menstruate for the first time, their mothers often slap them across the face, a cultural tradition thought by some to signify the difficulties of life as a woman.[15][16][17]

Studies have shown that although Americans frown upon domestic violence regardless of whether the perpetrator is male or female, generally they are more accepting of minor violence, such as slapping, when it is perpetrated by a woman against a man rather than the opposite. This is probably because women are considered less likely than men to cause physical harm, though the harm dealt is based on how hard the strike was, not the gender of the person striking. However, women who inflict minor acts of violence on their male partners have a higher-than-normal probability of being severely assaulted by those partners, and domestic violence experts therefore advise at-risk women to refrain from even minor acts of physical aggression against their partners.[18] It has been suggested that both men and women who are violent toward their spouses are more likely to be so with their children as well.[19]

In India, the insult slap is a political maneuver used to express disapproval of ideas of a particular public figure or politician.[20]

Popular entertainment

John Wayne slapping Robert Stack in the 1954 film The High and the Mighty. In the film, the plane is encountering an engine failure, and to calm Stack's character, Wayne's character slaps him twice.

Slapping is very often portrayed in films and television programs. For example, in Slap Her... She's French girls and women typically slap boys, men and other females who offend them in some way and humiliate them. Such films have been criticized for helping to create a cultural acceptance of women slapping men, at least as opposed to men striking women.[18] This acceptance of gender-based abuse has been justified by some on the basis that women are generally physiologically weaker than men and cause less harm than men when they slap, though given that people are able to control the strength of their slap, the damage caused by the slap is based on the strength of the slap, not the gender of the person slapping.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). 2004. p. 1170. 
  2. ^ slap, Online Etymology Dictionary
  3. ^ Miller, D. Gary (2014). English Lexicogenesis. p. 166.  
  4. ^ a b c Green, Jonathon (2006). Cassell's dictionary of Slang. Weidenfeld & Nicholson. p. 114.  
  5. ^ Livingstone, edited by Sonia; Haddon, Leslie (2009). Kids online: opportunities and risks for children. Bristol: Policy. p. 150.  
  6. ^ Levy, Frederick (2008). 15 minutes of fame: becoming a star in the YouTube revolution. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha.  
  7. ^ Roberts, Andrea Clifford-Poston ; foreword by Liz (2008). A playworker's guide to understanding children's behaviour : working with the 8-12 age group. London: Karnac. p. 145.  
  8. ^ Goggin, Gerard (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life. p. 122.  
  9. ^ Ammer, Christine (1997). The American heritage dictionary of idioms (1st pbk. ed.). Boston, Mass. [u.a.]: Houghton Mifflin. p. 589.  
  10. ^ Morris, Desmond (2007). The naked woman: a study of the female body (Reprint. ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. p. 76.  
  11. ^ Cotterill, Janet. Language in the Legal Process. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. pp. 81-82, ISBN 0-333-96902-2
  12. ^ Renzetti, Claire and Raquel Bergen. Violence against Women. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. p. 45, ISBN 0-7425-3055-8
  13. ^ Malley-Morrison, edited by Kathleen (2004). International perspectives on family violence and abuse: a cognitive ecological approach. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 20, 36.  
  14. ^ Umar, Mohd. (1998). Bride burning in India: a socio-legal study. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publ. Corp. p. 46.  
  15. ^ Forman-Brunell, edited by Miriam; Paris, Leslie (2010). The Girls' History and Culture Reader; The Twentieth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 29.  
  16. ^ Berliner, edited by David; Sarró, Ramon (2009). Learning religion: anthropological approaches. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 35.  
  17. ^ Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen (2007). International encyclopedia of adolescence. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis. p. 492.  
  18. ^ a b Loseke, Donileen et al. Current Controversies on Family Violence. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. pp. 66-67 ISBN 0-7619-2106-0
  19. ^ Lamb, Michael. Parenting and Child Development in "Nontraditional" Families. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. p. 311 ISBN 0-8058-2748-X
  20. ^
  21. ^ Denmark, Florence and Michele Paludi. Psychology of Women. New York: Praeger, 2008. p. 562 ISBN 0-275-99162-8
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