Slapping (strike)

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Slapping or smacking refers to striking a person with the open palm of the hand.[1][2]

Etymology and definitions[edit]

The word was first recorded in 1632, probably as a form of Onomatopoeia.[3] It shares its beginning consonants with several other English words related to violence, such as "slash", "slay", and "slam".[4] 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 jazz and other styles of music, the term refers to the action of pulling an instrument's strings back and allowing them to smack the instrument: see Slapping (music).

"Bitch slap" is African-American slang that dates back to the 1990s.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[6][7][8] 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.[9]

Usage and meaning[edit]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12][13]

Cultural aspects[edit]

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.[14] However, it is illegal in Scotland to smack a child.[15] A 1998 Indian study found a high rate of approval for husbands slapping their wives, particularly among husbands and middle-class Indians.[16]

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.[17][18][19]

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 or vice versa. 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.[20] It has been suggested by Michael Lamb that both men and women who are violent toward their spouses are more likely to be so with their children as well.[21]

In India, the "insult slap" is a political maneuver used to express disapproval of ideas of a particular public figure or politician.[22]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). 2004. p. 1170.
  2. ^ "slap". Hit or strike with the palm of the hand or a flat object
  3. ^ slap, Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. ^ Miller, D. Gary (2014). English Lexicogenesis. p. 166. ISBN 9780199689880.
  5. ^ a b c Green, Jonathon (2006). Cassell's dictionary of Slang. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 114. ISBN 9780304366361.
  6. ^ Livingstone, edited by Sonia; Haddon, Leslie (2009). Kids online: opportunities and risks for children. Bristol: Policy. p. 150. ISBN 1847424384.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Levy, Frederick (2008). 15 minutes of fame: becoming a star in the YouTube revolution. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha. ISBN 1592577652.
  8. ^ 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. ISBN 1855754940.
  9. ^ Goggin, Gerard (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life. p. 122. ISBN 9780415367431.
  10. ^ Ammer, Christine (1997). The American heritage dictionary of idioms (1st pbk. ed.). Boston, Mass. [u.a.]: Houghton Mifflin. p. 589. ISBN 039572774X.
  11. ^ 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. ISBN 0312338538.
  12. ^ Cotterill, Janet. Language in the Legal Process. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. pp. 81-82, ISBN 0-333-96902-2
  13. ^ Renzetti, Claire and Raquel Bergen. Violence against Women. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. p. 45, ISBN 0-7425-3055-8
  14. ^ 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. ISBN 0805842454.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "Smacking to be banned in Scotland". BBC News. 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  16. ^ Umar, Mohd. (1998). Bride burning in India: a socio-legal study. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publ. Corp. p. 46. ISBN 8170249228.
  17. ^ Forman-Brunell, edited by Miriam; Paris, Leslie (2010). The Girls' History and Culture Reader; The Twentieth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 29. ISBN 0252077687.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Berliner, edited by David; Sarró, Ramon (2009). Learning religion: anthropological approaches. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 35. ISBN 1845455940.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen (2007). International encyclopedia of adolescence. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis. p. 492. ISBN 0415966671.
  20. ^ Loseke, Donileen et al. Current Controversies on Family Violence. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. pp. 66-67 ISBN 0-7619-2106-0
  21. ^ Lamb, Michael. Parenting and Child Development in "Nontraditional" Families. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. p. 311 ISBN 0-8058-2748-X
  22. ^