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A taunt is a battle cry, a method in hand-to-hand combat, sarcastic remark, or insult intended to demoralize the recipient, or to anger them and encourage reactionary behaviors without thinking.[citation needed] Taunting can exist as a form of social competition to gain control of the target's cultural capital (i.e. status).[citation needed] 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 bullying, or indirectly encouraging others to bully the target. It is also possible to give a response of the same kind, to ensure one's own status. It can be compared to fighting words and trash-talk.

Taunts are also a genre of Folklore.

Verbal taunts

The act of taunting can be learned by observation and improvisation. It usually follows linear thought, correlating or building in some manner to the target of taunting. Things such as the victim's appearance, intelligence, mannerisms, education, background, past offenses, etc. can otherwise be insulted. When used in this manner, the effectiveness of a taunt at provoking a response varies depending on how the specific insult relates to its victim (or their sense of self), to what level of offense they regard the taunt, and how well the victim can control their emotions when responding.

The universal taunting melody

Children across numerous cultures frequently set their taunts to a single basic, universal[1] melody ([1], [2]), with different words or nonsense syllables chosen by children speaking different languages. This melody is commonly known as either "Ring Around the Rosie" or "It's Raining, It's Pouring". In English, the melody is frequently set to the nonsense syllables "Nana nana na-na" (in the American South often "Nanny nanny boo-boo") and is often repeated with words such as "You ca-an't catch me." In French, the taunt uses syllables often rendered "Nananananère," and Swedish-speaking children use the phrase "Du kan inte ta mig" ("You cannot catch me").

This melody also occurs in the English nursery rhyme Bye, baby Bunting.[1]


Certain movements of ones body, are, in many cultures interpreted as a taunt. These can be expressed through the eyes, hands, fingers, head and other areas of the body.


A childish gesture in Japanese culture, made by pulling a lower eyelid down to expose the red underneath.

Clenched fist

A raised, clenched fist is used as a gesture of defiance by a number of groups. It is usually considered to be hostile, yet without any sexual, scatological, or notionally offensive connotations.


The crotch-grab is done almost exclusively by males. It is, as the name suggests, simply a grabbing of the penis and testicles.


The cutthroat gesture is performed by drawing the hand, or a finger or two, across the throat. It represents slitting the throat with a knife, and means that the gesturer or someone else is metaphorically being killed. It is rarely if ever used literally to refer to death, though it is occasionally used as a theatrical threat ("I'm going to kill you"). The gesture earned a great deal of national notoriety in the NFL during the 1999 season in which several players did the cutthroat gesture.


The dickhead gesture is made by holding a hand to one's forehead, the thumb and fingers usually forming a "C" shape, and then moving the hand forward and backward in an arc. The image suggested is a large penis growing out of the forehead.


The finger gesture is a gesture consisting of a fist with the middle finger extended. It is universally understood as "fuck you" due to its resemblance to the penis. It is certainly thousands of years old, being referred to in Ancient Roman literature as the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus. Performing this gesture is also called "flipping the bird" in countries where "the finger" is used. In other regions, "flipping the bird" refers to the raising of the middle and index finger with the back of the hand directed at the recipient. It can also mean "Victor" in some countries, which is not to be mistaken for the "Peace" gesture, which is done with the palm facing the recipient of the gesture, but in Britain and some other countries it is an offensive gesture, equivalent to "the finger".


File:Loser poster.jpg

Poster for the 2000 film Loser. Jason Biggs is performing the "Loser" gesture.

The loser gesture is used in some countries. This gesture is performed by raising the index finger and thumb of your right hand perpendicular to each other so that they form the letter "L". It is then placed onto one's forehead. It signifies that the person that this gesture is directed to is a loser.


Done by holding up your hand with your ring finger and thumb bent to each other, implying the act of putting 2 fingers in a womans vagina and 1 in her anus.


Often sticking one's tongue out at another is seen as mocking the other. A variation of this is also known as blowing a raspberry. It can also be wagged in a manner suggesting cunnilingus when directed at a female, which is usually seen as highly vulgar.

Turkey face

The turkey face gesture is when you take your hand and put your thumb on your nose, wriggle your head back and forth and do the same thing with the hand.

V Sign

The insulting version of the gesture (with the palm inwards) is often compared to the offensive gesture known as "the finger". The "two-fingered salute", as it is also known, is commonly performed by flicking the V upwards from wrist or elbow. It is most commonly called "the forks" in Australia. The V sign, when the palm is facing toward the person giving the sign, has long been an insulting gesture in England,[2] and later in the rest of the United Kingdom; its use is largely restricted to the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.[3] It is frequently used to signify defiance (especially to authority), contempt or derision.[4]


File:Fingers and thumb in circle downward motion.jpg

The Wanker gesture

The wanker gesture is made with a loose fist (with all fingers forming a cylindrical shape) is made, and shaken up and down (or sometimes, back and forth) at the wrist, suggesting masturbation.

A picture of the young Tony Blair, later the British Prime Minister (1997-2007), using the wanker gesture became widely available (although copyrighted) in 2007.

In popular culture

In Monty Python's Monty Python and the Holy Grail the French Knight taunts King Arthur and his companions with a series of increasingly ludicrous insults, culminating in "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries".

Versions of the Endemol quiz show 1 vs. 100 based on the United States version (Australia, and to an extent, France) are known for the contestants and mob taunting each other.

Similar game shows, such as Weakest Link, are built on taunting a defeated player.

Video games

Some video games feature the ability to taunt an opponent. In the context of role-playing games, a "taunt" command is often used by the tank to draw the AI opponents' attention to the player's character, saving other more fragile characters from its attacks so that they can perform specialized roles. In a first-person shooter context or 1 vs 1 games, a "taunt" command is essentially a virtual incarnation of a verbal taunt, and may include either purpose-programmed sounds and gestures or a symbolic ritual insult that players have adopted to show dominance.[5][6] In the context of wrestling or fighting games, a taunt may serve the purpose of building energy or stamina.

In games not featuring a dedicated "taunt" command, players have devised other ways, within the controls of the game, to taunt or harass opponents of other skill levels. In a racing game, for example, a player far in the lead might come to a stop before the finish line to watch their competitors begin to catch up, only to accelerate again and take the checkered flag when the opponents draw near; whereas multiplayer FPS games have given rise to the practice of corpse humping or tea bagging, which involves the "crouch" command present in a typical FPS's control scheme.

In the online PC game sensation World of Warcraft, the classes of Warrior and Druid have the ability named "Taunt" and "Growl" respectively and used to focus the attack of an enemy non playing character (NPC) onto the Warrior or Druid who have used this ability. These classes also have an ability which focuses the attacks of all creatures in an area, commonly referred to as Area of Effect taunt (AOE). The Warrior ability is called "Challenging shout" and the Druid ability is called "Challenging roar". The Paladin and Death Knight classes possess taunts as well. Taunting isn't limited to game skills, it exists also as an emote (by typing /taunt in the game's chat feature).

In the Super Smash Bros. series, characters have a brief taunt that can be performed by pressing a button. Luigi's is the only taunt that damages the foe, except in SSBB, where Solid Snake also possesses a damaging taunt. Kirby's taunt removes his current disguise. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, characters feature 3 different taunts each. If a Down Taunt is executed very quickly, Star Fox characters and Solid Snake can contact allies on their home stages (known as a Smash Taunt), while Samus Aran can remove her power suit if the Up and Down taunts are repeated very quickly.

In the online game Team Fortress 2, each character possesses a unique taunt depending on the weapon he is holding, an example of which is when the Demoman lifts his crotch armor to reveal a piece of paper with a smiley-face on it, shouting "Ka-BOOM!" Some taunts can kill opponents, and two can restore health.

In the Saints Row games, players can design their own character and choose from numerous taunts in order to make his/her enemies or pedestrians feel bad, thus engaging in a fist fight. This feature is also available in the second game, now that the character has the ability to speak in which he/she can trash-talk his/her pedestrians and enemy gangs nearby. Performing taunts will earn the player respect.

In MotorStorm game, drivers can perform taunts to other drivers in order to humiliate them. These can be performed by any vehicle the player derives, but so do other rivals. In MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, the use of taunt has been expanded upon and these are done by performing the infamous "the finger" next to another driver. Other taunts can be performed, however doing this can make the rival attack the player, thus causing the player to crash.

In some Pokémon video games, there is a Dark-type move called Taunt. Once it has been used, it only allows the other player to use moves that can inflict damage, instead of using moves that affect stats, status, weather, and etc.

In The Secret of Monkey Island, the main character learns taunts and retorts in a process called insult sword fighting. The learned retorts are used to counter a second set of taunts later. The sequels feature several similar insult games.

In Heroes of Newerth, users who pre-purchased before the open beta begun, can use the ability "Taunt" to possibly score a smackdown. A smackdown happens when you land the killing blow on a target you taunted... However, if the target you taunted lands the killing blow on YOU within 60 seconds, HUMILIATION.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Untwisting the serpent: modernism in music, literature, and other arts. Daniel Albright. University of Chicago Press, 2000. p. 94, second paragraph.
  2. Staff Henry V, British Shakespeare Company.Accessed 23 April 2008
  3. V sign as an insult:
  4. Defiance, contempt or derision:
  6. Bow, Nigger - an essay on gaming culture


simple:Taunt fi:Hämääminen

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