The word simp is not new. In fact, it is quite old.
But it has been dragged into a new popularity. The same way as older songs can find new audiences on TikTok, an older slang emerges on the application to be defended by a wider and younger audience.
Too short, the beefy West Coast rapper who used the word in lyrics as early as 1985, said he was not surprised that the word was more popular than ever.
It always means the same thing, he said. If I were in a room with a group of 20 or even teenagers, I would expect them to know what I am talking about.
The Evolution of Simp
Simps’ new status as a misogynistic first-rate insult, implying that a manly man has lasted most of a year. Mel Magazine, an online newspaper that quickly notes new cultural trends, dissected the resurgence in October.
The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English defines it as an abridged version of the simpleton, so the original meaning of the sentences is rooted in calling someone stupid. The dictionary lists its first use known as 1946, although it appeared in the New York Times as early as 1923.
The most recent entry in the dictionary dates back to the 2000 novel Once Upon a Time by British novelist Diran Adebayo, where simp appears twice in the first 20 pages.
Mr. Adebayo said he used it to inject an old-fashioned black tone into the book.
Simp would have been used the old-fashioned way, he said. Not the other way around, he was used as a very gentle man, very gentle with his friends.
This new meaning of the word as an insult to be gentle or too sympathetic, especially towards women, became more important in the 80s and early 90s. A set of rappers from the west coast who regularly addressed pimping , including Hugh-EMC, Too Short and E-40, began to use it in their songs.
To me, it’s like the opposite of the pimp, said Too Short. It really degrades the person you are targeting.
He added that it evoked the feeling of something counterfeit: like you, a counterfeit pimp.
Too Short said he may have taken it from Blaxploitation films in the 1970s, where the word flourished. The 1982 movie B penitentiary II even had a character named Simp.
In the early 2010s, the word, still used with some regularity by rappers, was captured by members of the emerging manosphere, the world of human rights activism. Simp has become a staple of the forums on men’s rights, where feminism is ridiculed as weakened men just waiting for a TikToker to undertake the dust and give it a new shine.
Do we know where the Simps are going?
The current definition of words is not too far from Too Shorts. It is a person, often a man, who throws money or attention at someone else, often a woman, in order to earn their affection. (It does not work.)
This use only became popular on TikTok in 2019, and may have reached its peak thanks to a trope made popular by Marco Borghi, whose account, @ polo.boyy, has more than 2 million followers on the platform.
On December 16, he posted a video showing him posing under a block of text. He said: if she tells you about her relationship problems and you comfort her, while Post Malones Rock Star was playing. The pace has changed. OutKasts Hey Ya chords started playing and a text banner flashed: Welcome To Simp Nation.
Mr. Borghi had made videos on the concept of simps throughout the year. But this one seems to have inspired a boom simple content on TikTok.
The videos @ polo.boyy marked the first time that Sterling Fournier, 21, saw the word on TikTok, where he himself has more than 675,000 subscribers. He made his own video in the same format.
He said he had already been aware of what it meant.
If you went out with the boys, you would say: Oh, I had such a good date with Sydney. I paid for his food, and then you know, like, just like a teasing word, we’re like, oh man, you’re a simp, he said.
I hope she sees it, Bro
The first wave of simp content on TikTok and YouTube was led by men. More recently, a video trope related to simp trained by creators was born.
Lauren Halbach, 19 posted one of these videos in May. In this document, her boyfriend rests his head on his chest in his bed. A song called Simp (Simp Nation Theme Song) starts playing. He leaps up laughing.
I feel like my boyfriend definitely fits the context of being a simp, said Halbach.
The same boyfriend-simp gave her the chance to turn the table on the alpha male culture of TikToks, she said, where women are often ashamed or criticized for being too tacky or too haunting for men, and men make fun of each other for doing things too special for women. She described the dynamics as very toxic.
The omnipresence of the term simp has removed part of it. Like other insults, it was picked up by fan communities, who refer to themselves like simps for their favorite stars. Gretchen McCulloch, linguist and author of Because Internet, a book on language online, compared this use to terms like stan or trash, as in Im trash for that.
Ms. McCulloch called it a conscious approach to the fandom of preemptively lowering yourself so that others cannot, she says.
So it’s sexist?
The word expresses the discomfort of gender equality and provides an easy way to get people behind the discomfort. Its resurgence goes against simplistic ideas about young people, who are often caricatured as beacons of political correctness that have awakened saviors coming at a time when America was in desperate need.
Mr. Fournier said that the words nervousness were part of his call. I think it got bigger because it was right, just within that perfect margin where it was not something that you might like too, too angry, but it was also something that was still fairly politically incorrect, he said.
Ms. McCulloch places simp in the same category of terms as white and whipped knight, used to degrade men who are seen as trying to gain favor with women. These also arise in the world of human 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 the work of his students, it reflected a reaction or irritation of the characters, even confusion, around what you are supposed to be a man in terms of promoting your appeal to women.
A simp is someone who puts like a woman on a pedestal, said Tiago Garcia-Arenas, 22, a TikTok creator with over 2 million followers who released a song called Simp earlier this year. These men, he said, see women as a superior being, or something like that.
And Nelson Cam, 19, TikTok user with more than 150,000 followers, said the word has also retained its economic associations. The Simps, he said, are guys who spend a lot of money on girls and get nothing in return.
I feel like a lot of guys have seen this word as an opportunity, every time they argue online with, I guess, a male feminist or any other man who defends women’s rights, they have a gun automatic they can just use, he told me.
The enduring power of Simp
Simp has linguistic qualities shared by a lot of timeless slang. It’s short, punchy and easy to pronounce.
You look at the list of words for cool you know, rad or hot or bad, said Ms. McCulloch, many of them are monosyllables who have like a consonant and a vowel and a consonant.
Mr. Adebayo acknowledged that he enjoys the sound alone.
It’s a word that sounds quite dismissive and bossy in its own way, he said. You can see that it is a kind of useful and insulting term.
And longtime users of the word expect it to retain its meaning.
I don’t know which simp will play, but it will always be a negative word if you call it that, said Too Short.
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