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What Does Simp Mean? – The New York Times


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What Does Simp Mean? – The New York Times

The word “simp” isn’t new. In fact, it’s pretty old.

But it has been dragged into fresh popularity. In the same way that older songs can find new audiences on TikTok, older slang emerges on the app to be championed by a broader, younger audience.

Too Short, the bawdy West Coast rapper who used the word in lyrics as early as 1985, said that he was not surprised that the word is more popular than ever.

“It still means the same thing,” he said. “If I was in a room with a bunch of 20-somethings or even teenagers, I would expect them to know what I’m talking about.”

Simp’s new status as a prime insult — a misogynist one, that implies a person is “unmanly” — has lasted most of a year. Mel Magazine, an online journal quick to note new cultural trends, deeply dissected the resurgence in October.

The “New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English,” defines it as a shortened version of simpleton, so the phrase’s original meaning is rooted in calling someone stupid. The dictionary lists its first known usage as 1946, though it appeared in The New York Times as early as 1923.

The most recent entry in the dictionary dates to the 2000 novel “My Once Upon a Time,” by the British novelist Diran Adebayo, where “simp” appears twice in the first 20 pages.

Mr. Adebayo said he had used it to inject an old-fashioned noir tone into the book.

“Simp would have been used in an old-school way,” he said. “Not the other way it’s been used as a very soft kind of man, who is very soft to his female friends.”

That newer sense of the word — as an insult for being “soft” or “overly sympathetic,” particularly to women — became more prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s. A set of West Coast rappers who regularly addressed pimping, including Hugh-E. M. C., Too Short and E-40, started using it in their songs.

“To me it’s like the opposite of the pimp,” Too Short said. “It really degrades the person who you’re aiming it at.”

The ubiquity of the term “simp” has taken some of that sting out of it. Like other insults, it has been taken up by fan communities, who often refer to themselves as simps for their favorite stars. Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and the author of “Because Internet,” a book about language online, compared this usage to terms like “stan” or “trash,” as in, “I’m trash for this.”

Ms. McCulloch called it a self-conscious approach to fandom — “preemptively putting yourself down so that other people can’t,” she said.

Yes.

The word expresses discomfort with equality when it comes to gender, and offers a simple way to dismiss the people causing that discomfort. Its resurgence cuts against simplistic ideas about young people, who are often caricatured as beacons of political correctness — woke saviors arriving at a time when America desperately needs them.

Mr. Fournier said the word’s edginess was part of its appeal. “I think it caught on because it was just, just within that perfect margin where it wasn’t something that you could get like too, too angry about, but it was also something that was still pretty politically incorrect,” he said.

Ms. McCulloch places simp in the same category of terms as “white knight” and “whipped,” used to degrade men who are “perceived as trying to curry the favor of women.” These also crop up the world of men’s rights activism where simp is frequently used.

Mr. Adebayo teaches creative writing at Kingston University London. He said that when he saw the word in his students’ work, it reflected a character’s “backlash or irritation, or even confusion, around quite what you’re supposed to be as a man in terms of furthering your appeal to women.”

And longtime users of the word expect it to retain that meaning.

“I don’t know what simp will evolve into but it will always be a negative word if you’re called that,” Too Short said.

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