November 1, 2012

There are many things with which a person may be slapped. Wet fish are a particular threat around this time of year in certain parts of the country. The glove of a wronged adversary used to be quite popular – generally portending further unpleasantness – but seems to have fallen out of fashion lately.

But this week’s Insurance Times seemed – to Bankstone News’ innocent eyes – to introduce a hint of novelty to the arena of slappage with the assertion that Labour MP Jon Cruddas has been “slapped with an eight week driving ban” by Westminster magistrates. To constitute a slap – rather than a gentle brushing or wafting effect, the ban in question, Bankstone News concluded, must presumably have taken the form of a reasonably substantial document.

That’s what we thought… until we decided to look into the whole business of slappage in greater detail. Like its partial homonyms slam, slash and slate, slap turns out to have become something of a vogue word in journalistic parlance of late. Having started with (literally) slapping parking fines (strictly parking fine notices) on to people’s windscreens, it soon moved on to the people themselves (metaphorically) having fines, bans, injunctions and all kinds of other things slapped on them.

Through sloppy usage, the forceful application of sanctions gradually slipped over into fines, bans, enforcement notices and the like being recast as the instruments of slappage – rather than things applied with a slapping motion.

So these days, it seems, you don’t need an entire rulebook to hit someone with: any flimsy piece of paper will do (though you do probably still need a book – or a pamphlet at least – if you want to throw it at someone). For example: “she slapped me with a shopping list”, “HR slapped me with a note about annual leave entitlements” or “the consultant slapped me with the worst possible biopsy report”. See, it’s easy when you get the hang of it!

Now that we’ve cleared that confusion up, you’ll probably want to know more about the lawless Mr Cruddas (no, really, that’s his name – XD he he! LOLs). Well, like countless other Brits today, Mr Cruddas had apparently decided not to bother with nitpicking details like motor insurance or an MOT. Let’s face it, we’ve all got to make economies where we can. The maximum penalty for driving without insurance is £5,000 – although most people are simply “slapped with” a £200 fixed penalty notice, which (for the avoidance of needless exemplarity) is what happened in this case. Mr C was also obliged to pay an additional £85 for the pleasure of an interview with the local beak, which is how Insurance Times calculated its story heading “Cruddas fined £300”.

The eight-week ban with which the Crudster was slapped might seem harsh, compared with the more typical 28 days for driving without insurance. It was, however, Judge John Zany explained to the wayward politician, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, merely the innevitable cosequence of a simple mathematical calculation.

“The trouble is”, Zany spelled out patiently to the Landrover Discovery driving Cruddas (who insisted that insurance was on his list of things to do), “six and six make 12”, meaning that the Dagenham MP, whose license had previously been slapped with six points for speeding, must now brace himself for the stinging pain of a glancing blow from a mandatory ban. All of which is highly entertaining, of course, but still leaves the puzzling popularity of words like slam, slog and slap teasingly unaccounted for.

Perhaps contemporary English speakers simply relish the sleazily satisfying sound of words beginning with “sl”? That would certainly help explain why Bankstone News derives so much childish pleasure from hanging out of the passenger window of moving vehicles whilst shouting things like “slags” or (indeed) “slappers” at passing groups of pedestrians.


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