[Ads-l] Smack / Talk Smack / Smack-Talk

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 3 12:40:38 EST 2022

I haven't seen any convincing posts on the origin of the terms smack, talk
smack, and smack-talk among Native Black Americans. Green's Dictionary of
Slang claims *talk smack* is a "punning on words like shit, heroin/shit,
nonsense, and junk, heroin/junk, nonsense" - thus linking the origin of the
Native Black American *smack* to illicit drugs/criminal activity.

Nonetheless, I posit that the Native Black American *smack*, *talk smack*,
and *smack-talk* (defined below) are in fact Negro Dutch
calques/loan-translations - ultimately derived from the Continental Dutch
*klets*, *kletsen*, and *kletspraat* (also defined below).

The Native Black American terms and their definitions are as follows:

*smack* noun 1) nonsense (said of utterances), drivel 2) banter, talk that
is not meant to be taken seriously 3) bold or overconfident talk 4) gossip
5) trash (said of utterances)

*talk smack* idiom v 1) to utter nonsense 2) to say things that are not
meant to be taken seriously 3) to say things that are meaningless 4) to
engage in verbal bravado 5) to gossip about someone

*smack-talk* idiom n see *smack*

It should be noted that *smack* always refers to speech; it never refers to
physical objects determined to be nonsense (unless it is published speech).

The Continental Dutch source words and their respective definitions
(including sources) follow below:

*klets* noun 1) a smack, a slap 2) a splash (said of water) 3) rubbish

*kletsen* noun 1) chatter 2) small talk 3) gossip 4) meaningless, senseless
talk 5) As a (disagreeable, resentful) name for other people's speaking or
talking, which qualifies it as unimportant, annoying, nagging, whining, or
as outspoken, overconfident [Original text: Als een (onwelwillende,
wrevelige) naam voor anderer spreken of (samen) praten, welke dit als
onbelangrijk, vervelend, hinderlijk teuten, wauwelen, zeuren qualificeert,
of als een vrijmoedige, overmoedige]

*kletspraat* noun 1) nonsense, twaddle 2) gossip 3) rubbish < Dutch *klets*
'a smack', 'a slap', 'rubbish' + Dutch *praat* 'talk', 'speech'

Prisma Handwoordenboek Engels, p 1429;
Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal

(The translations above are my own and that of a Dutch speaker to ensure

The use of the term among Native Black Americans in the field of
professional sports (in particular) seems to have resulted in "mainstream"
familiarity with (and some use of) the term - with some change in meaning
or nuance, e.g. "aggressive talk" via Green's Dictionary of Slang or the
assumption that "talk smack" refers specifically to athletes or competitive
sports. I have noted the latter explanation of the term repeatedly in
online searches, despite the fact that it is neither particular to nor
restricted to the field of sports among Native Black Americans.

This different understanding of the term is likely due to the learning of
the term by outside populations through inference (as well as inference on
the part of lexicographers). The term *smack* is frequently used in
male-dominated sports, particularly basketball, football, boxing, and
wrestling (the WWE even has a show dubbed "Talking Smack"). However, it is
by no means confined to (nor specific to) sports contexts, and it is not
necessarily indicative of "aggression" at all. (Even when it is meant to
communicate "overconfidence" or "bravado", it is frequently understood that
the *smack* in question is not meant to be taken literally or seriously.)

The terms *smack*, *talk smack*, and *smack-talk* should be considered
within the context of the greater body of Negro Dutch retentions in Native
Black American language including *wak/wack*, *talk out of one's neck*,
etc. which I wrote about previously and published to the LingBuzz archive:

Zola Sohna

Additional sources cited:

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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