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Trash-talk is a form of insult usually found in sports events, although it is not exclusive to sports or similarly characterized events. [1] [2] It is often used to intimidate the opposition, but can also be used in a humorous spirit. Trash-talk is often characterized by use of hyperbole or figurative language, such as "Your team can't run! You run like honey on ice!" Puns and other wordplay are commonly used.


Trash-talk was commonly used by the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 70s. In 1963, Ali even released a popular full-length record album consisting largely of trash-talk poetry. It was entitled I Am the Greatest! , a phrase that became his signature line. Since then, it has become common for boxers, wrestlers, and many other sports competitors to use trash-talk. [3] However, in amateur sports ranks, trash talking is generally frowned upon as unsportsmanlike conduct (especially in youth leagues). UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor is a more recent example of a prominent trash-talker, while former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen is considered by some to be the greatest trash talker in UFC history. [4] Although the practice of trying to distract opponents by verbal abuse is common to virtually all sports, other sports sometimes have their own terminology for verbal abuse: for example, cricket calls it sledging and in ice hockey it is called chirping. The Wealdstone Raider, a notorious fan hailing from Wealdstone, is known for trash-talking the opposition and opposition's fans.

Trash-talk has become a debatable term especially in North American sports, with the greatest trash talkers being acknowledged for both their trash talking skills as much as their athletic and mental abilities. [5]


In sports, trash-talk most commonly comes in the form of insults to an opposing player's playing ability or physical appearance. [6] The intended effects of trash-talk are to create rivalry between the players and increase psychological pressure of opposing players to perform well. [7] The quality of performance of players under the pressure of trash-talk is debated, but one study found that participants who were subject to a trash-talk message exerted more effort in completing their task and perceived their opponent with more incivility and rivalry, when compared to participants who were subject to a neutral, irrelevant, or no message at all. [7]

Trash-talk is more prevalent in contact sports than non-contact sports, and it is also more prevalent between male competitors than female competitors. [6]

Smack talk

Smack talk is a slang term seen in chat channels in chat room, blog, and massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) conversations. The term came about in the early 1990s. It generally refers to the use of threatening or intentionally inflammatory language. Smack talk can also be used with bullying, whether that be face-to-face interaction, or cyber-bullying.

Smack talk is also a slang term used in sports. It refers to inflammatory comments made by a person or team in order to insult, anger, annoy or be boisterous toward their opponents. [8] Although it began as a term used by sports fans and athletes, it has spread to all areas of culture where competition takes place. In the United States, it is synonymous with "trash talk".

The social interaction within MMOGs has been observed to be quite active and often leads to long-term social relationships. [9] MMOG groups, such as "teams", "guilds" or "corporations", are composed of groups of people who often initially have no other social contact or interactions with each other. [10] As a result, their conversations contain a subtext of discovery of language skills, social values, and intentions. One of the first indicators of these is the use or offense taken by the usage of smack talk. For the purpose of setting a social context or to comply with MMOG end user license agreement [11] restrictions, MMOG groups may establish bylaws, traditions, or rules (formal or informal) that either permit, discourage, or prohibit the use of smack talk in their conversations and postings.


The ethics of using trash-talk as a strategy is debated. In sports, trash talking is often seen as unsportsmanlike, as throwing insults at opposing players goes beyond the limits and conventions of the game. Some argue, on the other hand, that trash talking can be used as a valid strategy to increase tension in opponents and thus benefit from opponents' poor performance, since any action not explicitly banned in the rules is permitted. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

A multiplayer video game is a video game in which more than one person can play in the same game environment at the same time, either locally or online over the internet. Multiplayer games usually require players to share the resources of a single game system or use networking technology to play together over a greater distance; players may compete against one or more human contestants, work cooperatively with a human partner to achieve a common goal, or supervise other players' activity. Multiplayer games allow players interaction with other individuals in partnership, competition, or rivalry, providing them with social communication absent from single-player games.

Conversation analysis

Conversation analysis (CA) is an approach to the study of social interaction, embracing both verbal and non-verbal conduct, in situations of everyday life. CA originated as a sociological method, but has since spread to other fields. CA began with a focus on casual conversation, but its methods were subsequently adapted to embrace more task- and institution-centered interactions, such as those occurring in doctors' offices, courts, law enforcement, helplines, educational settings, and the mass media. As a consequence, the term 'conversation analysis' has become something of a misnomer, but it has continued as a term for a distinctive and successful approach to the analysis of sociolinguistic interactions.

A massively multiplayer online game is an online game with large numbers of players, often hundreds or thousands, on the same server. MMOs usually feature a huge, persistent open world, although some games differ. These games can be found for most network-capable platforms, including the personal computer, video game console, or smartphones and other mobile devices.

Incivility is a general term for social behaviour lacking in civility or good manners, on a scale from rudeness or lack of respect for elders, to vandalism and hooliganism, through public drunkenness and threatening behaviour. The word "incivility" is derived from the Latin incivilis, meaning "not of a citizen".

Sledging (cricket)

Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe the practice invented by Fay Allen whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating the opposing player. The purpose is to try to weaken the opponent's concentration, thereby causing them to make mistakes or underperform. It can be effective because the batsman stands within hearing range of the bowler and certain close fielders; and vice versa. The insults may be direct or feature in conversations among fielders designed to be overheard. The term has also been used in other sports, as when the tennis player Nick Kyrgios insulted his opponent, Stan Wawrinka, by referring to a purported encounter between another player and the latter's girlfriend.

A taunt is a battle cry, sarcastic remark, gesture, or insult intended to demoralize the recipient, or to anger them and encourage reactionary behaviors without thinking. Taunting can exist as a form of social competition to gain control of the target's cultural capital. In sociological theory, the control of the three social capitals is used to produce an advantage in the social hierarchy as to enforce one's own position in relation to others. Taunting is committed by either directly, or indirectly encouraging others to taunt the target. The target may give a response in kind to maintain status, as in fighting words and trash-talk.

Unsportsmanlike conduct

Unsportsmanlike conduct is a foul or offense in many sports that violates the sport's generally accepted rules of sportsmanship and participant conduct. Examples include verbal abuse or taunting of an opponent, an excessive celebration following a scoring play, or feigning injury. The official rules of many sports include a general provision whereby participants or an entire team may be penalized or otherwise sanctioned for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Chael Sonnen American professional wrestler and mixed martial arts fighter

Chael Patrick Sonnen is an American submission grappling promoter, mixed martial arts (MMA) analyst, and retired mixed martial artist. Beginning his MMA career in 1997, Sonnen competed for the UFC, where he became a top contender in both the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions and challenged for both the UFC Light Heavyweight and UFC Middleweight Championships. Sonnen has also fought in the WEC, Pancrase, and most recently for Bellator MMA. He holds notable victories over numerous former world champions such as Maurício Rua, Paulo Filho, Michael Bisping, Nate Marquardt, Wanderlei Silva, and Quinton Jackson. Sonnen is often considered as one of the greatest all-time mixed martial artists to have never won a UFC Championship. In 2014, Sonnen began working as a MMA analyst for ESPN and two years later, in July 2016, founded Submission Underground (SUG), his own submission wrestling promotion. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest trash-talkers in MMA history.

Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva versus Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is a mixed martial arts series of fights that began in the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships in Japan. All four fights have been televised live on pay-per-view.

Small talk

Small talk is an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed. In essence, it is polite conversation about unimportant things.

Miesha Tate American mixed martial artist

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Sean McCorkle is a retired American professional mixed martial artist who last competed in the Super Heavyweight division. A professional from 2005 until 2014, he competed for the UFC, Bellator, KSW, and King of the Cage.

A non-player character (NPC) is any character in a game which is not controlled by a player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games where it applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee rather than another player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer that has a predetermined set of behaviors that potentially will impact game play, but will not necessarily be true artificial intelligence.

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The term first-person shooter (FPS) describes a video game genre where players participate in weapon-based combat all in the first person, or from the perspective of their character. One of the more notable features of FPS games is its compatibility for networked, then later online, multiplayer gaming, where players could bring their skills to a national and then later a global arena. In a genre consisting of players hunting and killing other players, FPS games are found to include a source of rich communication and social interactions between players.

Conor McGregor Irish mixed martial arts fighter

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Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey was a series of mixed martial arts bouts booked by Strikeforce and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In 2011, the fighters began a rivalry via social media and a series of interviews, with Rousey expressing an interest in fighting Tate for Tate's Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Championship. As the feud garnered increased attention from fans and the press, Tate and Rousey were ultimately chosen to headline a Strikeforce show on March 3, 2012. This marked a rare occurrence of women being placed in the main event of a mixed martial arts (MMA) card.

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