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What Is Smack Talk?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Smack talk is a type of informal communication between two or more people based on friendly or antagonistic rivalry and insults. The level of insults used in this type of communication can vary quite a bit, depending on the intent of the message and how well the people know each other. In general, however, the language used is meant to denigrate the listener and make the speaker seem more impressive, often through direct insults and bragging. Smack talk is often used between friends as a way to demonstrate familiarity and to show that each person is comfortable enough with the other to handle good-natured insults.

Sometimes also called trash talk, smack talk typically involves purposeful antagonism and insults between two people as a form of communication. Different types of insults can be used for this sort of communication, though in general its purpose is to make the speaker look superior compared to someone else. This type of communication often occurs in competitive avenues, such as insults traded between athletes or flaming that occurs on Internet forums and online games. Such smack talk can be as simple as calling into question the intelligence of one person, or it can consist of far more elaborate insults based on the comments or personality of a particular person.

Basic smack talk usually consists of a simple insult meant to make one person look foolish or inept. Bragging also commonly occurs, as the speaker makes himself or herself seem smarter or more impressive, in order to downplay the achievements or intelligence of someone else. Insults exchanged through smack talk can also be extremely vitriolic, often using personal details and information about a person to be as offensive as possible. Profanity is frequently used, and observers to such talk may react positively to especially creative or unusual profanity and insults.

While the basic purpose of smack talk may seem to be for one person to insult another, there is a secondary component to this type of communication in some settings. Friends often engage in this communication as a way to demonstrate the strength of their friendship. If two friends are playing a competitive video game together, for example, it is often quite acceptable for one to brag about a victory and insult the other through smack talk. This type of communication usually demonstrates a level of comfort and familiarity between these players, while insults between people who do not know each other well can result in increased hostility and potential violence.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jul 25, 2012

@alisha, @MikeMason-- I don't think smack talk is allowed in most sports. A player can get disqualified for it and I think most sports leagues have rules about it.

The only time I've seen athletes engage in smack talk is during boxing competitions on TV. And I personally find it childish and distasteful. I know that in most if not all school leagues, there are rules limiting or forbidding smack talk.

I also don't think that it is seen very favorably online. It might be allowed on sites where there is no oversight. But most public forums also have rules about not insulting members of the forum, so smack talk is not acceptable there either. Moderators can ban members who engage in it.

By stoneMason — On Jul 24, 2012

@alisha-- I think there is a difference between insulting someone and talking smack. It's not the same. When you're insulting someone, you don't have good opinions or intentions about them. But when you're talking smack, you're making fun of them just to annoy them. For the most part, it's part of competition and for fun and there is no harm done.

I don't think girls talk smack about each other much. It's more of a guy thing and it probably originated during sports games. Smack talk serves a good purpose in competitions because if you make fun of the other team's players, it will affect their morale and in turn, their performance. You are more likely to outperform the other team if you can upset them with smack talk.

By discographer — On Jul 23, 2012

I'm not sure what to think about smack talk. I know that it is usually done for fun and it doesn't cause problems as long as people don't take the insults personally.

But I think it's hard not to take insults personally and it can easily lead to something else like the article said. I hear about this all the time during sports games. Players of both teams will usually talk smack about each other but things sometimes get out of hand. Players might end up physically abusing one another and both the game and the team will suffer as a result.

Friends are usually laid back about smack talk if they know each other. It can actually be entertaining and amusing. But again, if there is even some minor tension between two friends and one of them crosses the line with an insult, a fight will probably break out.

That's why I don't know if smack talk is good or not. What do other people think about smack talk?

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