‘I love James Blunt as much as I love herpes’ – ‘I love that you're not ashamed to admit you have both’: Attempted insults and responses on Twitter
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McVittie, C., Sambaraju, R. & Bain, F. (2021) ‘I love James Blunt as much as I love herpes’ – ‘I love that you're not ashamed to admit you have both’: Attempted insults and responses on Twitter. Language & Communication, 76, pp. 23-34.
To date, little research has examined participants’ understandings of insults. We examine (potentially) derogatory talk and its consequences in interactions on Twitter, considering instances on the Twitter feed of one high-profile user. Discourse analysis identifies four forms of response to attempted insults: (1) ascribing category membership to first contributor, (2) taking up first contributor self-identification, (3) syntactic echoing, and (4) co-constructing criticism. These responses treat the original remark as literally accurate, and thereby ‘breach’ the usual expectations of talk. Thus, insulting is an outcome that must be accomplished in interaction. Otherwise, derogatory talk can become no more than failed insults.