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Happy slapping

Happy slapping is a violent craze in which an individual or gang humiliates or assaults a victim while an accomplice films it on a mobile phone. The pictures are then circulated to friends for their entertainment. Incidents vary from the mild to the severe: one girl was recently put in hospital for three days after a particularly vicious one. Most are carried out on other young people in order to humiliate them — a survey in early June reported that one in ten schoolchildren claimed to have been bullied by means of a camera phone broadcasting an embarrassing image — but gangs are picking on older people in the street too. The term has become widely known in the past month throughout the UK, though reports suggest it began in South London late last year. Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said at the end of May that the craze was partly behind the recent rise in street crime. However, a lecturer in journalism, Graham Barnfield, has argued: “A happy slap doesn’t appear very different from many other antisocial behaviours, so it’s hard not to think there’s more than a touch of a manufactured moral panic about the way it’s being reported.” The term is a pun on happy snapping for taking photographs, which goes back at least to the 1940s.

Young thugs are rather attracted to surveillance culture, as the recent craze for so called “happy slapping” attests: regardless of whether the CCTV picks up their assault on a hapless victim or not, they are now recording it for their own delight on a mobile phone, and circulating the miserable image to gleeful pals.

Sunday Telegraph, 29 May 2005

Tracy Murray chose to teach son Dean at home after he became the victim of the growing trend of “happy slapping”. Dean ... was surrounded, slapped and punched by pupils while the attack was filmed on a mobile phone, and he has been too frightened to go back to school since the attack in February.

Evening Chronicle, 2 Jun. 2005

Page created 25 Jun. 2005

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-hap1.htm
Last modified: 25 June 2005.