Start reading A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here or start reading now with a free Kindle Reading App.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device


Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.
A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't

A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt--And Why They Shouldn't [Kindle Edition]

William B. Irvine
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £14.99
Kindle Price: £9.97 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save: £5.02 (33%)
* Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition £9.97  
Hardcover £10.49  
Kindle Daily Deal
Kindle Daily Deal: At least 60% off
Each day we unveil a new book deal at a specially discounted price--for that day only. Learn more about the Kindle Daily Deal or sign up for the Kindle Daily Deal Newsletter to receive free e-mail notifications about each day's deal.

Product Description


"A Slap in the Face is an earnest book offering some good advice as well as some memorable insults." --Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal

"Readers looking to add to their stock of insults will find much good material here, but they'll also find an insightful analysis of the way we insult each other, why we do it, how we react, and how we can adjust our notion of insults and modify our reactions to them...Written in a lively, entertaining style..." --Booklist

"We may not like to admit it, but the impulse to wound with words has long been a part of human history, Irvine contends in this melange of philosophy, psychology, and cultural study. Insults may range from barbs meant as flirtatious bait to the famously eloquent gibes of Shakespeare, but Irvine pragmatically argues that regardless of intention or context, we must understand insults in order to deal with them." --Publishers Weekly

"After providing readers with a catalog of amusing insults, Irvine analyzes the role they play in everyday life and offers invaluable advice for reducing their sting. His suggestion that you laugh at yourself when you are insulted--a form of verbal aikido--is nearly foolproof."
--Mark Frauenfelder, founding editor of and editor-in-chief of the technology magazine Make

"This intriguing book is written in a very engaging style about a topic to which everyone can relate. William Irvine uses leading research in the field to present information in a very accessible manner about the various forms that insults can take, reactions that people have to insults, and ways to more appropriately respond to insults. The points that Irvine makes will 'slap you in the face' as you quickly become aware of the prevalence of insults, your own and others, in your daily life."--Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology, Clemson University

"Aristotle said we were rational animals, but the Stoics noticed that we were insulting animals. Othe

Product Description

Insults are part of the fabric of daily life. But why do we insult each other? Why do insults cause us such pain? Can we do anything to prevent or lessen this pain? Most importantly, how can we overcome our inclination to insult others?

In A Slap in the Face, William Irvine undertakes a wide-ranging investigation of insults, their history, the role they play in social relationships, and the science behind them. He examines not just memorable zingers, such as Elizabeth Bowen's description of Aldous Huxley as "The stupid person's idea of a clever person," but subtle insults as well, such as when someone insults us by reporting the insulting things others have said about us: "I never read bad reviews about myself," wrote entertainer Oscar Levant, "because my best friends invariably tell me about them." Irvine also considers the role insults play in our society: they can be used to cement relations, as when a woman playfully teases her husband, or to enforce a social hierarchy, as when a boss publicly berates an employee. He goes on to investigate the many ways society has tried to deal with insults-by adopting codes of politeness, for example, and outlawing hate speech-but concludes that the best way to deal with insults is to immunize ourselves against them: We need to transform ourselves in the manner recommended by Stoic philosophers. We should, more precisely, become insult pacifists, trying hard not to insult others and laughing off their attempts to insult us.
A rousing follow-up to A Guide to the Good Life, A Slap in the Face will interest anyone who's ever delivered an insult or felt the sting of one--in other words, everyone.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 400 KB
  • Print Length: 254 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199934452
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (1 Feb 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AZXB9L6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #378,406 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

More About the Author

William B. Irvine is professor of philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. For more on his life and writings, visit his author website at

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining 5 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a dabbler in Improv I find books like this both thought-provoking and useful.

The ability to spontaneously deal with some insensitive oaf, obnoxious ogre or condescending cretin can be very life-affirming indeed!

The book de-constructs insults - what they are and - more importantly - provides a variety of strategies for dealing with them in the moment.

Highly entertaining - but a little wordy and long-winded at times - thus the 4 stars.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
By Mark Philpott VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I bought this thinking it might be either amusing or, at least, equip me with some life tools to effortlessly deflect incoming insults. Just, you know, for those rare occasions. Ahem.
Sadly, and though it's very well written otherwise, it's not really a "funny" book (nor is it particularly meant to be) and the advice given is probably not really going to work for me either.

Seems my life of pent up bitterness is set to continue then...

The book is, essentially, a lengthy thesis on insults and, accordingly, split into three main sections. Introduction, The Insult Arsenal and Dealing With Insults.

The first two sections I found quite interesting until I reached a point where I realised most of what was being said I already knew. That is to say there's a lot of stating the obvious and lengthy explanations of different types of insults that seem to assume you've never encountered an insult in your life. I think we all know what "backbiting" is without having to read three pages of explanation.

This is perhaps unfair to say though as an expansive examination of insults needs to cover such things or else seem remiss.

Personally though, I felt I was only being told what I already knew and therefore it failed to engage me too much.

The "Dealing With..." section, I have to confess, reduced me to skim reading as he soon turns the book into another apparent essay on "Stoic" thinkers and how they would deal out and deal with insults. Not being familiar with the Stoics, this held little interest for me and I found these sections a little too dry for my taste.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but repetitive and shallow 28 Nov 2013
By Mr. T. Ralph VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book starts on a high note and explores the history of insults, giving a wide range of classical examples. It takes us through the principles of Stoicism, and continues to analyse insults throughout the ages. Unfortunately, I found that it petered out about half-way through, considering some topics only to a very shallow level and overanalysing others to the point of being repetitive. I'd struggle to recommend it.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A good thought-provoking book is a wonderful thing and this is one of them. Even if you disagree with some of Irvine's reasoning or conclusions, even if you sometimes want to throw a few insults in his direction yourself, A Slap in the Face is full of ideas that will likely help you to set your own in order, in support or opposition.

As a fan of the Stoics and thoughts on how to live a good life, I didn't mind the book partly turning into 'What would Zeno do?' so much later on, but I did think that Irvine occasionally lost the thread of a good point to bang on about Stoic history instead.

It's a half-sized book, so not long, but be prepared to read parts of it in stages. Irvine has a talkative style which sometimes is wonderfully accessible, at others waffly stodge.

Applied properly I believe the theory here can help you craft better insults. However, the author takes the high road and tries to curtail his - what I say is we should still test stoic endurance if we can be funny with it.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts great but finishes in a muddle 3 Nov 2013
By Patrick Løye VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Reading this book on the train was not a good idea... Going over of the examples of classic insults, I found myself laughing out loud on a number of occasions. "From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it" in particular got me. With a start like this I was honestly looking forward to the rest of the book. It was nicely descriptive and laced with some wonderful dashings of humour

As it went on though... the spark started to fizzle out and by the end of it had the allure and charm of a damp flannel

It starts to turn about half-way through, when Prof Irvine seemed to start skimming. He stated things (such as how playful teasing between friends can act as social glue and strengthen relationships) but then went into little-to-no detail about the intricacies. In fact, by the end there seemed to be a lot of whimsical notions and little substance. On many occasions we're told "the stoics would probably suggest we do something like..." - so we're not even in facts / tried-and-tested methods now... just guess-work

My main bug-bear though, was the obsession with stoicism later on. This book feels much more like: "The Stoics Guide to Insults". Maybe the problem is that William had to cram in a condensed version of stoic philosophy into the book... But largely I felt there were a lot of holes in the ideas. Some great points for sure (noting how evolution only selected for maximum reproduction, not quality of life) but a lot of cloudy reasoning too.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sticks And Stones
Insults hurt. We know that, and thats why we give them, and sometimes why like doing so. It's difficult to laugh off an insult ; after all, all most of us want is to be treated... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. M. A. Reed
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Enough...
I read the first part of this book in about a day or so....then I 'got' the point, that the Stoic philosophers recommended ignoring insults.....job done. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Miss M. L. English
5.0 out of 5 stars Insults considered philosophically
A slap in the face is a prolonged study into insults: what they are, how they work, what categories they fall into, why people use them, why they hurt, and so on. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Martin Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars Be a smiling savage...
Say someone has insulted you, or at least said or done something that you find insulting. How do you react, if you react at all? Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms. Felicia Davis-burden
4.0 out of 5 stars a reader
Informative and to some extent explains how insults can be batted away using the insulters' ammunition. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Consumer A
5.0 out of 5 stars Willian B. Irvine with another insightful and helpful volume
Following on from his review of Stoic philosophy in A Guide to the Good Life, this is an interesting evolution of the ideas previously visited. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ism
3.0 out of 5 stars some nice insights.
I liked best his insights into what we might call the social pathology that gives life to insults. I was expecting a bit more on stoicism; he keeps that to the minimum needed to... Read more
Published 13 months ago by LezJ
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category