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The Canine in Conversation
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black and white photo with a woma whose head has snapped backward, a look of pain on her face, the man grim appears to have just slapped her
figure 1  


bitch slap. Almost all definitions agree that a bitch slap is an open handed or back handed slap of meager force. Whether the phrase indicates that it is the kind of slap given to a bitch or the kind of slap a bitch might give is unclear. The former suggests that it is the kind of “gentle” cuff that a dominant male might give a female to “keep her in line” or remind her of her place. The latter is kind of like throwing like a girl: hitting like a bitch.

I was surprised to find a phrase that seems basically offensive (whichever definition you subscribe to) turn up in print as often as it does. In a Slate article about bioethics, William Saletan describes “Greg Pence, a sleepy-eyed philosopher from the University of Alabama” as administering “a 15-minute bitch-slap to biotech critics. All medical progress has been opposed by religion, he says, and all opposition to biotechnology is religious. Anyone who denies this is just covering it up...and anyone who gives in to it is a sissy.” Clearly the purpose of this slap was to keep those sissy religionists in their places.



1. Saletan, William. 2005. Drugstore Cowboys: The Strange Timidity of Liberal Bioethics. Slate, Apr 4. Accessed Feb 17 2006 from http:// d/ 2116141/.

About the illustration: A Google image search turns up several versions of this picture, titled bitchslap.jpg. So far nobody has admitted knowing who it is, where it comes from, or why it is the image of a bitch slap. Readers are invited to inform the author.
see also: bitch (female); bitch (male); bitchin'; son of a bitch Last updated: June 21, 2008
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