bitch-slap versus back-hand

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Joelline, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    The thread on "bitch" reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask for some time:

    Is a "bitch slap" a synonym or an antonym for a "back hand"?

    I have always thought that a "bitch slap" was a slap that a woman would deliver: palm of hand applied to the other person's face. I assumed that "bitch slap" was the opposite of a "back hand" where the back of the hand makes contact with the other person's face. Some time ago, however, I saw a movie in which a man backhanded a woman and someone called this a "bitch slap." Now, I'm confused!
  2. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Hi Joelline!

    I thought "bitch slap" was rapidly using both hands to slap the other person's cheeks left-right-left-right... but I'm far from sure of it.
  3. cropje_jnr

    cropje_jnr Senior Member

    Wollongong, Australia
    English - Australia
    I guess these terms are as much cultural constructs as official striking techniques, which may explain the film character's unusual definition of a 'bitch slap'.

    To me, a 'bitch slap' denotes contact with the palm of an open hand, whereas a 'back hand' is, by definition (I do hope I'm not contradicting the assertion I made above!), made with the back of the hand.
  4. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    I agree with Cropje_jnr. I would also add that these can be delivered by either men or women, as far as I know.
  5. carolinafornia Junior Member

    Southern California
    English - US
    I think that currently, a "bitch slap" is considered an open handed palm of hand to face. I think that it got the term because it makes someone look like a "bitch" if they are slapped that's not as masculine as being punched, so it makes a man or woman seem pretty lame.

    This is a really funny one! :)
  6. MrYeahbut Senior Member

    New Mexico
    USA- English
    It is also used between 2 men when one thinks the other is ''not worthy'' of a punch with a fist or he is too weak to take it. "I'll bitch slap you, you wimp"
  7. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    So "bitch slap" and "slap in the face" are the same thing?
  8. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I don't know that bitch-slapping is necessarily limited to the face.
  9. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    Though that would be the immediate assumption I think most AE speakers would make.
  10. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Where else would one slap?
    I suppose someone might slap a bottom, but I would be more likely to call that a smack or a spank. There is also shoulder slapping, but would that be considered bitch slapping? It has such a masculine, locker-room sort of connotation.
  11. Salvage Senior Member

    Columbus, Ohio
    USA English
    This is a fascinating thread.

    My hearing of "bitch-slap" has little to do with the exact way the slap is given but about the relationship between the giver and the receiver. The bitch-slap is a slap given by a pimp to one of his whores. It could be provoked or not. The point is that it is a slap delivered in contempt by someone who wishes to assert their dominance.

    I have heard bitch-slap used to describe actions in international politics. For example, a diplomatic effort is extended by country A to country B, but instead of dialog country B raises the tariff on country A's main export. That would be a bitch-slap.
  12. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    When I think of the cliché version of two women fighting, there's a lot of poorly-aimed or aimless slapping involved. It involves the entire upper body, not just the face.
  13. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I always understood "bitch slap" to be an open handed slap to the face with limited force. That is, the slap motion originates at the elbow. The bitch slap was the slap as applied by a woman.

    A "macho-man" (a term invented for this post) slap had considerably more force and the slap motion would originate from the shoulder. While a woman could make this type of slap it is potentially more damaging and it would not fall into the category of "bitch slap".

    My understanding is that a "bitch slap" stings, but does not generally injure the subject.

    A good "macho man" slap or a back handed slap could loosen a tooth or two, or fracture a cheek bone.

    My understanding is a bitch slap is more insult than injury.
  14. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I've understood it to mean the repeated slapping that occurs during a so-called "cat fight." But I could be wrong.
  15. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The plot thickens. So does the "bitch" in "bitch slap" come from contempt, as suggested by Salvage:
    or does it come from an unpleasant word describing a female?
  16. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    I would almost always think of it as a single slap, sharp and charged with meaning. Often that meaning is that the slapper treats his or her victim with contempt, almost as a belonging; this is evoked in the purveyor's use of the bitch-slap as a tool for disciplining a prostitute. The classic bitch-slap is humiliating.

    However, "bitch-slapping" is used to refer to a physical altercation and especially to a "knock-down, drag-out" fight, frenzied and chaotic.
  17. out2lnch Senior Member

    Ottawa, Canada
    Funny thread. To me, it is normally a backhanded slap that is describing the fact that the slapper is in a superior position to the slapee (probably not a word, but what the hell). As mentioned, it is like the pimp slapping his whores. It suggests putting someone in their place.

    My understanding seems to differ from the Urban Dictionary though:
  18. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    Alas, I was hoping to find something in Wikipedia to vindicate me, but it's silent on the subject of bitch slapping! Although urbandictionary definition #3 comes close . . . .
  19. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    No, it's not;) - see here

    (I'd never heard the term "bitch-slap" before this thread.)
  20. anothersmith Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English, U.S.
    I wonder why that didn't come up in my search? Oh, well. I concede defeat. A single, open-handed slap to the face it is.
  21. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    I wonder if the "bitch" part of the term comes from the deliverer (a female) or from the receiver (a female)? Can a man "bitch slap" another man (or is it then called something else)? I admit that I'm still not quite sure about this term. I've never actually used it myself and now I'm not sure I ever will (though as Salvage suggests, it has great metaphoric possibilities!).
  22. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    It has never occurred to me that a bitch slap is a technique, as say, a "right uppercut". I entirely agree with Salvage's opinion. It's not quite so much how, but the circumstances and intention of the blow.
    The OED defines it as:
    The OED's earliest citation is 1987, from the rock band Guns N' Roses. There's also a telling quote from a US news source (1994):
    "Aldrich hit him in the head with his pistol. He called it a ‘bitch slap’ on the tape."

    Joelline, the "bitch" is the one being slapped. A man can certainly bitch slap another man; in which case the slapped one loses considerable face: he has been dominated.
  23. Esca Senior Member

    I agree with Salvage and Matching Mole.

    I always thought of "bitch-slapping someone" as akin to--but more forceful and mean-spirited than--"slapping someone around."

    Both of these phrases can be used to discuss physical AND metaphorical slapping that asserts the dominance of the "slapper" over the "slappee."

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