bitch-slap versus back-hand

Joelline

Senior Member
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!
 
  • 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.
     

    cropje_jnr

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    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!
    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.
     
    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 way...it's not as masculine as being punched, so it makes a man or woman seem pretty lame.

    This is a really funny one! :)
     

    MrYeahbut

    Senior Member
    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"
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I don't know that bitch-slapping is necessarily limited to the face.
    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.
     

    Salvage

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    anothersmith

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    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.
     

    Nunty

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

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I've understood it to mean the repeated slapping that occurs during a so-called "cat fight." But I could be wrong.
    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.
     

    anothersmith

    Senior Member
    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 . . . .
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    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!).
     

    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:
    A stinging slap or blow, esp. one delivered to humiliate a person regarded as inferior.
    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.
     

    Esca

    Senior Member
    ATX
    USA - English
    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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