Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When is it OK to call someone a slapper?

We had an interesting discussion in the office yesterday about the word "slapper". Somebody had used it in a feature about footballers and their marriage difficulties. It said that since the Sunday newspapers started paying out to anyone who could produce a story about having slept with a footballer, "every slapper from Newcastle to Newquay knew that they could get rich".

Eyebrows were raised about the use of that particular term. Couldn't it be replaced with something more decorous such as "gold digger" or "floozy"? Well, no. Slapper means a woman who will sleep with lots of men. There is no male equivalent because the idea is deeply ingrained in our culture that most men will, if given the chance, sleep with lots of women. You can't tweak that prejudice out of existence.

The etymology of "slapper" is unclear. It's not in my 1991 Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It doesn't appear in the usual American Dictionaries on-line. In Jonathon Green's Dictionary of Slang it's traced back, possibly to "schlepper" which might mean a slovenly person or one who paints her face. For me it's always evoked the sound of Chaucerian flesh on flesh. Although Green has it down as "a promiscuous woman", which seems about right to me, he also thinks it might mean "prostitute". I'm not convinced about that. As Mark Ellen pointed out, "prostitute" suggests the calculation of a professional and is increasingly replaced by the almost approving "sex worker".

Somebody further objected that "slapper" could be taken to denote class. I'm not so sure. I think it's a term that can be applied as freely in the smart wine bars of Chelsea as it might be in Wetherspoons. Then somebody said that by referring to Newcastle we might be conjuring up a vision of Viz's Fat Slags in the Bigg Market. Of course, since slappers are sprinkled among the population without any particular regional bias, that must say more about our prejudice about Newcastle than the writer's supposed prejudice against the place or its inhabitants.

And so on. In the end it was decided to leave it alone because we know what slapper means and it is the perfect noun for this context. We might not like to feel that we're the kind of people who would use the term, of course, but that's our problem.


  1. I wonder if it's any relation to the 1920s term 'flapper'.

  2. I'm much more concerned about your characterisation of Newcastle as a prime haunt of slappers. You get slappers everywhere. It seems it just for the sake of some easy assonance.

  3. Friend's daughter has gone to university this term, and shares a flat with a girl/woman who has already gone through ten "boyfriends". Hence, "slapmate" (!)

  4. I'm not so sure slapper is all about promiscuity, although it's obviously a component. Here's how I see it and its near-synonyms used:

    Slapper: What my granddad would have called a "good-time girl". Consciously dresses to attract men, but isn't necessarily overtly "tarty" (see below). Encourages drinks to be bought for her, often with a "reward" for the most persistent provider of laughs and liquor to be claimed at the evening's end.

    Tart: If slapper focuses more on motivation, then tart is more about appearance - often featuring spectacularly tasteless use of make-up and unsubtle cleavage/thigh exposure - than slapper is. (Nobody says disapprovingly, "You look like a right slapper", do they?) Think Bet Lynch.

    Slag: So undiscerning when it comes to agreeing to sex that she's known both by men and by other women to be too "easy" to merit much if any respect. Makes no particular effort with her appearance, because it's unnecessary; word of mouth has already ensured that potential suitors are already aware of her reputation. Think back-alley knee-tremblers.

    So, yes, I think slapper is exactly the right word to describe wannabe WAGs, for whom sex is the "tip" that they're often prepared to pay for all the champagne and the ride in the Ferrari.

  5. so glad you didn't stoop to using 'Ho'

  6. @rivits - maybe you read the post again as you are complaining about something that David hasn't even said - in fact he also points out that "you get slappers every where"

    At no point does he suggest that Newcastle is the "prime haunt of slappers" The first mention of Newcastle is simply geographical "from Newcastle to Newquay".

    He does say that the use of the term Newcastle conjures up images of "Viz's Fat Slags in the Bigg Market" but he then goes on to say "slappers are sprinkled among the population without any particular regional bias"

    And anyway as I'm sure you're aware the fat slags were created by someone from Newcastle in the first place.

  7. You can't "tweak" that prejudice out of existence, but as a journalist, with your words and your influence with other journalists, you can begin to erode it.

  8. The two Lady managers at one shop I worked in always called each other Slapper and Trollop as terms of affection. Even went as far as listing each other on staff rotas as such.

  9. Does the term "slap" refer to a physical manifestation of the level of disdain that one might show towards said lady?

  10. "Slapper" is a gentler, more fondly mocking term than, say, "slag" which is nastier or "slut" which is more pejorative.
    It's almost a jokey term, not necessarily disapproving. Though of course all these things depend on context.

  11. For God's sake don't post this on the Word message board. It'll go into meltdown.

  12. @Kevin, the use of Newcastle I was objecting too is in a quote, presumably not originating with David, with no qualification. Lazy stereotyping for the sake of some assonance.