Is it "Bad Rap" or "Bad Wrap?"

Resolving the Question: Which is correct “bad rap” or “bad wrap?” Or even "bad rep?"

In light of recent reading, I've noticed the phrases "bad wrap" and "bad rap" being used interchangeably--not to mention a growing trend for "bad rep" too. As a writer and one possessed of an English degree or two, I like to fancy myself as reasonably well informed in such things, but, being the great humbler of hubris that the English language can be, before I started acting too smarmy and pointing out the mistakes of others (as we bombastic know-it-all types often do), I thought I should make sure I knew what I was talking about first. I'm glad I looked. What follows is what I found:

The correct form is "bad rap."

Alright, there you go. For those of you only looking for the proper phrase to use before moving on with some project or another, that's the short and simple answer. However, if want to use super "proper" usage (if there is such a thing), what you really want is "bum rap" instead. My beloved 2200-page Webster's Unabridged Dictionary lists both ways, but looking up "bad rap" only points you to "bum rap" and thus gives the latter priority in my eyes. In case you care, the definition is listed as follows: "1. an unjust accusation, verdict, or punishment... 2. An adverse opinion or judgment considered undeserved or unjust" (277). So there you go, if that's all you needed then enjoy and good luck on your letter, article or essay.

Now, for anyone curious or bored, my research went far beyond just an expensive dictionary, and it actually revealed some interesting insights as to how these terms all got so confused and perhaps even some ground to stand on for those who write it "wrong." For starters though, let's pin down why it is bad "rap" and not bad "wrap."

Some of you may have childhood memories invoked here.
Some of you may have childhood memories invoked here.


The term "rap" in all its oldest forms refers to a quick strike or physical blow, like to rap on a door or rap on a table etc. However, this term also included an aspect of rapping that was a light blow on the knuckles or noggin as a punishment (think Sister Mary Merciless and her ruler in Catholic school.) Obviously this has very little to do with having a "bad rap" as it means today, but there might be a connection given the punishment angle of the word. This is speculative on my part, I admit, but bear with me a bit longer and you'll see that my point is not to prove the relationship as much as it is to prove how things have gotten so muddled up. So, here we have an established relationship between the term "rap" as in a punishment and, therefore, by linguistic proximity, the crime for which that punishment was pronounced.

Further development of the term "rap" brought it to refer to something that was said aloud as well. The first instance of this was a reference to Thomas Wyatt's 1541 defense in which he is quoted as having said, "I am wont sometimes to rap out an oath in an earnest talk" ("Rap," def 3b XIII: 185). Again we see the term invoked in a litigious or punitive type environment and this time it's not a punishment but a speech form: to "rap out an oath" is obviously to say it out. The term is used in like manner more frequently from that time forward. So, again there's a connection to courts and justice with the term, if not a connection to someone's having a "bad rap" directly. At least not yet.

Whether either of those two ideas actually led to the use of the term as a means of impugning character or not, a decade later "rap" was being used to describe the act of doing just that. Again from the Oxford English Dictionary, 1733 slang, "to swear (a thing) against a person. Also intr. To swear; to perjure oneself." This definition coincides with a quote taken from Budgell, Bee I. 207, "He ask'd me what they had to rap against me, I told him only a Tankard." And another example later in 1752 "I scorn to rap against a lady" ("Rap," def 3c XIII: 185). Obviously now the act of speaking to incriminate or disparage someone has been encoded in the term "rap" entirely.

There is another relationship to crime that the term "rap" found itself tied to that came about around 1724. "Rap" was used, in addition to the above, to describe "A counterfeit coin, worth about half a farthing, which passed current for a halfpenny in Ireland in the 18th century owning to the scarcity of genuine money" ("Rap," def 1a XIII: 185). Once again there is a punishable or criminal association that can't be ignored, even if my connecting it to "bad rap" is only plausible at best. I merely point it out as food for thought for those who have continued to read this far.

A farthing.
A farthing.

From that time forward the word becomes more closely linked to our modern usage in the phrase "bad rap." However, the term was not paired with an adjective like "bad." Frankly, given the usage just discussed, it didn't need one. It was already defined as "A rebuke; an adverse criticism." The earliest example in this form came from a 1777 court case involving a post master, quoted thusly, "The post master general ... has lately had a rap, which I hope will have a good effect" ("Rap," def 3c XIII: 184). This was meant to say that he had a bad accusation against him and that it was hoped because of it things would improve. An adjective was unnecessary, obviously, for having a "rap" was bad on its own. To have a "bad rap" is redundant, like getting "good praise." None the less, redundancy happened.

However, "bad" became, in a way, "good" in that to have a "bad" rap, is to have a negative accusation against you that is not accurate, basically, a bad bad-accusation. Meaning the accusation is false.

It wasn't until 1927 that the first redundant pairing seems to have occurred wherein the adjective "bum" is paired with "rap." This can be found in Clark & Eubank Lockstep and Corridor vii. 45 quoted: "Edgar is now... in prison for what I honestly believe is a bum rap" ("Rap," def 3II 4b XIII: 184). From there the evolution seems to head directly into the usage we find today. The phrase "bum rap" has evolved into "bad rap" over time, but, as I pointed out at the start, "bum rap" seems to be slightly more "correct" given the Webster's kicking the definition from the former to the latter, and likely based on the fact that "bum rap" appeared first as we've just discussed.


The use of "bad rep" appears to be born out of this evolution; although at the time of this writing, there are no credible sources of research covering this latest transformation (likely it is simply too recent or, frankly, unimportant given how little is lost in meaning between the iterations). It seems likely that, as the word rapport has little use in modern dialects, the obvious assumption on the part of people, particular younger ones, is to hear what makes the most sense in context with meaning when the phrase is spoken. So, while I cannot prove this given lack of coverage on the subject, I can only state what I observe, and I certainly see that this new variant is on the rise as the Internet spreads grammatical mutation like wildfire.


The arguments in favor of "bad wrap" being correct are in deep trouble right out the gate. For starters, it doesn't show up in my Webster's Unabridged at all, so if you fancy this particular form, you're fighting the big boys of language use. I could find neither "bad" nor "bum" wraps in THE big boy, The Oxford English Dictionary either. However, there are some arguments that might be made regarding how the word "wrap" may have contributed to the meaning that evolved, perhaps in similar ways and for similar reasons as our two homophones are having done to them today, and perhaps from even farther back. Here goes:

Micah the prophet
Micah the prophet

The only remotely associable link for the word "wrap" to "bad rap" as a criminal related thing I could find might be taken from the following two examples. The first, and oldest, is this OED entry dated 1560: "Bible (Genev.) Micah vii. 3 ‘Therefore the great man he speaketh out the corruption of his soule: so they wrap it vp'" ("Wrap," def 6b XX: 603). Here it is not much of a stretch to see the possible first link between the spoken word "speaketh" and the crime "corruption" together with "wrap." The corruptions are spoken aloud and then wrapped together as one, creating, at least in concept, the idea of them having been "wrapped up." Unfortunately, I can't find anything linking this usage to the aforementioned "rap" as found in the previous sections (beyond them being homophones, which weighs something to my mind at least), and therefore can't state with certainty that there is a direct correlation any more than I can make the connection between the punishment elements of "rap" as in "rap on the knuckles" or as I can the counterfeit coin. All I can do is point them out and leave it to the reader to at least amuse him or herself with the possible connections and the delightful muddle that looking into English can be.

The second plausible connection to "wrap" and the phrase "bad rap" comes from the definition regarding figurative phrases "referring to concealment of disuse, as in under or in wraps, concealed; in abeyance; to take or pull the wraps off, to disclose; to bring back into use" ("Wrap," def 4 XX: 602). The basic idea of keeping some secret or criminal activity "under wraps." The problem with this association is that it first appears in 1939, so, while its appearance might well explain the confusion today regarding the proper usage, it clearly was predated by the "bum rap" first used in the 1927 example above.

Conclusion: It’s “Bad Rap” and not “Bad Wrap.”

So, there you have it. The bottom line is that, while plausibly related to "wrap" from as early as 1560, the correct grammatical use in modern English for this phrase is to use "rap" and not "wrap."

However, as is clearly evidenced through the history I traced here, the language is evolving. This evolution continues on this particular phrasal front primarily because the Internet propagates misuse (accidental and on purpose for "cleverness") with transformative effect. Ultimately Internet "misuse" impacts change in the way that slang and regional dialects always have. Popular use and "correct" use are rarely on the same temporal page, though it seems that inevitably popular becomes proper over time. The Internet just spreads the popular so fast that the young and web savvy (reliant?) often find themselves in trouble when they have to find the "correct" spelling or use of a term in a world that still relies on precedent to establish order and stability.

But hang in there you fans of "bad wrap," there's so much misuse of it now that in another fifty or hundred years the next editions of The Oxford English Dictionary will surely list it your way too. Once it's in there, you can use it however you want and nobody can say anything about it anymore. Until then, I'll wrap this up by saying that writing it wrong will get you rap on the knuckles from Sister Mary and a bad rap with those of us for whom grammactical matters matter.

Works Cited

"Bad Rap." Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. 2nd Edition. 2001.

"Rap." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd Edition. 1989.

"Wrap." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd Edition. 1989.

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Comments 113 comments

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 8 years ago from Seattle, WA

Guess I should change my hub then... :)

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Shadesbreath! Once again a super hub. You sure hit my knuckles real hard with the picture of My Mother Superior (how on earth did you get a photo of her all the way from Belgium)

I think I'll go in the corner now and curl up in a fetal position and hide my hands now.

Loved the rest of the hub though regards Zsuzsy

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

LOL T.Keeley, I confess to that having been the spawning point of the idea.  Seems like so many folks use one or the other in almost equal measure, I decided I really needed to find out what the real deal was.  I couldn't believe that there was really nothing authoritative on the net when I started poking around.  Now I just need some of these SEO smart people to read through this and tell me how to get it searched all over the place since, in theory, this hub might qualify as "evergreen."  I can only hope.

Zsuzsy, thanks for your kind words, and yikes for you if you really had one of those Mother Merciless types.  Apparently they are universaly the same across the globe (well, and probably the universe lol).  I never went to Catholic School, but my sister did and wow did she have some stories. 

Jewels profile image

Jewels 8 years ago from Australia

You're such a brain. If ever I need a referee in relation to a reference, may I refer to you?

ps: I know that nun!

Squimpleton profile image

Squimpleton 8 years ago from New York

I thought it was "Bad Rep" .

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Jewels, for whatever that reference will be worth, you bet you can! lol

Squimpleton, you trouble maker, are you trying to force me into writing a new one involving promiscuous women vs. carpetbaggers?

Squimpleton profile image

Squimpleton 8 years ago from New York

o.O Don't twist my words around!!!

the hub you're referring to is called "why do Christians get such a bad wrap".

I just happen to think "bad rep" would be better...because many Christians do have a bad reputation (anyone watched Secret Life lately? or even Degrassi?)

However if you want to make a hub about promiscous women and carpetbaggers go right ahead. Better yet! Make one about Promiscuous carpetbagger women!

t.keeley profile image

t.keeley 8 years ago from Seattle, WA

The Secret Life of the American Teenager is the WORST reality type show ever, albeit it has entertainment value. That cheerleader Christian is a fake...Christians believe cheerleaders are straight from HELL!!

Just kidding.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Ah yes, Squimpleton, you have a point that Bad Rep would serve in that hub's title too.  I meant in no way at all to direct any ill will to that hub, which I enjoyed reading.  This was merely an exercise based on my own lack of certainty given the varrying uses I saw there and then other places as I looked around the Internet. I didn't mean to "twist" words, given that the other hub wasn't even remotely in my mind, I thought you were making a joke so I made one too (bad reputation vs bad sales rep)... probably just bad joke, but hey.  Comedy is like that.

T.Keeley: Never seen it, but it sounds awful just in the title.  And, even though I know you're just playing, I'm going to avoid touching the faith issue though as I don't want my hub to get polemic.  It's just grammar.  LOL.

Squimpleton profile image

Squimpleton 8 years ago from New York

Oh, so that's what you meant by that promiscous women and carpetbaggers joke. I totally did not get it the first time. Hence why I thought you were twisting words around.

Though I still want to see a hub about promiscuous carpetbagger women :P (well actually promiscuous carpetbagger men would be more to my taste...but who wants to be picky).

And yes. Secret life is a bad show in itself. However since there's nothing better on TV, it's a good show in comparison to all the garbage.

Are you sure that Chrisitan Cheerleaders are going to hell? :O. Because both Secret Life AND Degrassi feature Chrisitan Cheerleaders. ...hmm..Perhaps it's a conspiracy by the devil to direct young Christian girls away from the light...muahahahahhahahahaahahaha!

Ananta65 8 years ago

Nice hub, Shadesbreath to which I’d like to add another argument in favor of rap. As you state, language is evolving, so not only the past should be taken into consideration. As we all know, rap nowadays is a way to express oneself, usually on some kind of beat. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rap also as “to talk freely and frankly”. So modern day MTV-society associates rap with expression of opinion, by which the redundancy you mention has disappeared. It’s now also possible to get good rap. And good rap is what this hub should get :)

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

This is a great well researched Hub. I avoided the issue of rap vs wrap in the actual hub as it was to me an academic question and i thought possibly an issue of American vs Queen's english. But as a child when we were summoned to higher authority we would ask "So what's the rap?" Of course wrap could have been used deliberately to denote packaging such that bad packaging would imply not well presented or even by implication marketed.

pgrundy 8 years ago

I love this kind of thing, thank you for all your work here. We have all kinds of books laying around here about the evolution of slang, but what is so interesting is how malleable words in general are and how they change meaning over time.

At first I thought you were going to write abou the 'music' my son listens to, but I know that is a riskier topic so I'm glad you avoided that.

As for bad rep, I've been informed by management that that's my role at the bank. I'm a bad rep, singlehandedly bringing the whole place down with my lack of sales skills and incompetence. God that's satisfying.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Ananta, that definition is actually pretty old too. My OED has like three or four pages of history on the word (huge, long, wide pages with very, very small letters lol). And yes, I agree that when it comes to the musical form, you can start using adjectives, although, to avoid redundancy, I think "good" is required where the opposite stands as I wrote it by default, even if that's not what I meant when I did. lol.

Sixty, yeah, that US vs British English is why I couldn't just pipe in on whether "wrap" was wrong too. I've been around long enough to have looked stupid thinking I knew usage so well enough over time to try to find out first lol. A few months ago I got in an argument with a guy over his use of the word "donater" telling him with absolute authority, given my know-it-all status, that the word he was looking for was "donor." He swore up and down that he was right and I swore up and down he was wrong. Long story short, it's both and his use was just as "right" as mine. English is a nightmare LOL.

PGrundy, it is fun for a few of us anyway, eh? lol. The thing that strikes me in this case is that, even though it can't be proven, you just know the homonym angle played out back then. Nobody read anything A) because they couldn't, and B) there wasn't anything for them to read. So I mean, they hear a word, they repeat it, they aren't thinking the spelling in their head.

Anyway, thanks for reading it, you three are very cool for sticking out a dry academic hub as I try to become more evergreen between fits of absurdity.

B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 8 years ago from Hell, MI

I think the dry academic assessment of Wrap vs. Rap, will serve to enhance your rep, as well as your cred! I always thought it was rap which, for some reason, I associated with a rap sheet (which I definitely do not have!). Thumbs up to you!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Thanks BT. And the association between rap and rap sheet is made in the OED so, grammactically anyway, you were/are correct.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Like you, Shadesbreath, I would have argued vehemently that "bad rap" was correct and "bad wrap" was incorrect. I still believe "bad wrap" would only be correct in a limited context. I think this certainly qualifies as an "evergreen" hub and an excellent one at that. It's both thorough and readable. I usually avoid putting links in comments, but I think anyone who like this hub and has not read "The Professor and the Madman" would truly enjoy reading it. Here's a link for it that I found through Google:

robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Lovely Shadesbreath. I'm a real wordfreak and love this sort of thing. English is a most amazing language, isn't it? I don't know how anybody ever learns it--and hominyms are the pits. How does any foreigner ever get two, to and too right. Lots of native speakers screw that one up. Thanks for another good read and here's another thumbs up.

ajcor profile image

ajcor 8 years ago from NSW. Australia

Yes I also believe that "bad rap" was correct and that "bad wrap" incorrect - great hub particularly the rep. picture of the Sisters of the Merciless; although I believe a knitting needle (rather than the measure) wielded on a frosty morning; whilst at piano practice also produced a farily painful rap on cold knuckles.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

William F. Torpey, thank you very much for the kind words. I'm really trying to develop some evergreen between rants LOL. And, you do realize that that book is merely the precursor to the one that will describe in some sublime totality the creation of things like hubpages and wikkipedia at a point in the not so distant future. History just keeps repeating itself. Modern history being no exeception at all.

Robie: Yes, I love this language. It's the great stew of a globe brought together (yes war, empire, blah blah.. history happened before me, don't ask me to hate it)... and yes, the language is insane. Have you ever seen the old Gallager the comedian act where he ripped into English for about ten minutes. God, so funny. And, honestly, I have no clue how any foreigners learn English. How cruel is fate to have made English a primary language... on the other hand, if you think about the stew that it is, in a way, it's only fair. Thanks for you comment, I'm glad to find another English geek in the crowd.

LOL Ajcor, ... a knitting needle and a frosty morning? That's like battery acid in an open wound isn't it? (Thank you for the kind words too. It's nice to have on a hub like this.)

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 8 years ago from South Africa

Is language not a wonderful tool!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Ain't it though.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

Hi Shadesbreath. I also thought the correct version was 'bad rap', but assumed it was a trans-Atlantic difference. Thank you for your illumunating explanation. BTW I like the nun's picture.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

Yeah, the whole Eastern / Western hemisphere thing provides English with all kinds of extra reasons to allow for change or the assumption of change. I'm glad you like my hub and thanks for saying so. (And yeah, seriously, that nun has serious character doesn't she? I'm not sure if its just her or if because the picture is so old she somehow captures the spirit of something extra do to the obvious age. Either way - or some other way lol - I saw that picture and knew I'd stumbled upon a gem.)

Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Good hub, Shades. Personally, I think "Bum Wrap" is the funniest of all... Oh wait, that's an entirely different subject, isn't it?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California Author

LOL ok, there's so many ways to abuse the potential there, hah.

pauline 7 years ago

you're brilliant

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

While there is ample evidence to counter that, I'll accept it on your authority and say thanks. :)

EricT 7 years ago

Thanks! I google searched it, found you, and was on my way again in like 2 seconds... then I felt bad so I came back to write a thank you comment!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Hah, that's very cool of you. And I'm glad you got some use out of it. Thanks for saying so.

Susan 7 years ago

Hey Shadesbreath, I used the term "bad wrap" in my blog today, but had a nagging feeling that it was wrong. Using "bum rap" will make me seem smarter, I hope. :) Thanks for your help!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Well you definitely have some true writer's blood in you if you listened to that little voice and took the time to look. A lot of people ignore that nagging feeling. I get that all the time, say something or spell something and am like, "Dang-it... is that really the word I think it is?" lol. I'm glad you found some use for my little article here, and appreciate your taking the time to say so. Thanks. :)

Mr. Hookem 7 years ago

Hmmm...I always thought that it was meant to be a bad (or bum) rep (for bad reputation) or bad rap (for bad rappor). So, I could get a bad rep for my doing something out of character or I could have a bad rap with someone if we don't hit it off.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Well, I would venture to say that "bad rep" still needs a period after "rep." given that it's an abbreviated word. But, who knows. Another 50 years and that might be just how it works "officially."

Student 7 years ago

Thanks, informative and researched.

Articles you write in the future may be more approachable if you were to introduce them with a less supercilious tone.

I realize the connotations of 'supercilious' makes its usage here arguably incorrect. This way, you can take what I say, or ignore it. Your choice.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

I hear you Student.  All I can say in my defense on the "tone" thing is that my regular readers realize that the tone is entirely tongue-in-cheek.  Coming straight to this article from outside hubpages (which has become far, far more frequent than I ever imagined), I can see how some of that might be lost on those not familiar with my generally sarcastic yet good-natured psuedo-superciliousness. I appreciate your comments though, truly, and I am glad you liked my article for the information at least. :)

CaseyAnne 7 years ago

I ADORE this kind of research... When I hear cliches, similies, metaphors, etc. I get this itch under my skin to find out where they came from... It is amazing to know that a phrase used in vernacular 200 years ago could still be recognized and understood today!

I have to agree with your reply above of how internet propts the misuse of the English language. I believe this started well before the internet though. Look at some businesses and advertisements all around. For instance, "Rite" as a substitute for "Right" or "Nite" as a substitute for "Night"... I used to be frustrated when trying to teach this difference to children, but now I see ADULTS using these spellings!!!

What has English become??

I do love this language, but wish that more people would use it correctly...

I read the comment above about your tone and I have to disagree with Student. I think that the personality that you've added to this piece makes the general information easier to read. Instead of just being dry information, you've put an interesting twist that adds not only emotion but also your own opinion.

THANK YOU for this wonderful piece, and I shall be checking out more of your work!!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Thank you so much for saying such very nice things, Casey. :) It was fun to write this hub, and there's a great deal of enjoyment to be had in the OED. They put together lots of awesome information, but they draw no conclusions, leaving lots of fun for the English geek at heart.

As far as change goes, and spelling goes, I think it's not so bad really. If you consider some the spellings of the old stuff (even stuff in this hub like "soule" and whatnot) you get to see how words worked. I mean, this whole idea of "right" and "correct" is actually kind of new, really, and I think the Internet is going to kill it off eventually. THere's just no way to have a rule or set of laws if there isn't actually anyone with the authority to enforce them.

Anyway, thank you for leaving your comments. :)

flobie99 profile image

flobie99 7 years ago from Redondo Beach, Ca

Rapper C-Murder Convicted of .......Murder? LoL

Come have a discussion with me about the audacity of this title.

My Blog link is in my hub titled "All Things Criticized"

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Alright, I will come have a look.

Mark 7 years ago

Hmmm. I always knew it as "Bad Rep," with 'rep' being short for reputation. I've often silently corrected others when they wrote or said 'rap.' I guess my etymology knowledge is less than perfect then...

pioneer_writer5 profile image

pioneer_writer5 7 years ago

When I began reading your post, I thought here is a person with entirely too much time on his hands. After reading the responses to your post, I have reversed my opinion; I now realize you were actually performing a public service.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author


I would say that perhaps your etymological knowledge is perfectly fine, merely pointed at a different phrase. I think that "bad rep" is term that people would recognize, i.e. "That young woman is promiscuous and has a bad rep," would make sense to most listeners I believe. Bad rap is something else entirely... unless of course the young woman was accused of prostitution by a jealous competitor who swore out an oath falsely declaring that she'd witness an exchange of cash, thus, a bad rap put upon our poor, promiscuous young lass. :D


You are probably correct in both opinions, before and after. lol.

I have to say, I am pretty surprised at the number of hits this little project ended up getting every day, between 60 and 100 weekdays and 25-50 on weekends.

rich 7 years ago

i thought "bad rap" was short for "bad rapport". LOL at this guy writing a novel to make a simple explination.

Mrs. Obvious profile image

Mrs. Obvious 6 years ago from Northern California

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Keep up the good work. I will be a new fan of yours for sure.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Mrs. Obvious. That's a very awesome comment to find on here. Between you and old Rich above yours, I think this hub is finding the full range of opinions. Thanks for your nice words.

Amanda 6 years ago

THANK YOU for this! I was sitting here pondering if it was "bad rap" or "bad rep" (short for "reputation"). But then I thought about "rap sheet", which, according to that phrases' etymology, refers to the various crimes a person has received raps (on the knuckles) for.

It all makes sense now!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Amanda, I'm glad this helped. I wish I could pretend like I was all smarty pants and was never confused in the exact same way you were before I wrote this, but that would make me a horrendous liar. LOL. Glad this cleared it up for you as much as looking into it did for me too.

martycraigs profile image

martycraigs 6 years ago

Wow, you've taken quite the route to a credible answer to this question. Thanks for citing the sources of your research, i.e. Websters, etc.

Thanks for the explanation of where "wrap" may have entered into the whole equation, perhaps causing some of the confusion.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Your welcome, and thanks for commenting. I admit this kind of article only appeals to a certain segment of readers, but language is interesting to watch evolve and etymology is fun.

kendallcorner 6 years ago

I measure in google hits: 96 millions for wrap, 3.7 million for rap, so wrap wins, but the good news is that you site is the first hit on both

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Yeah, that was an unexpected outcome of this thing. I get about 100 visits a day, which is cool. I'm just glad it's helping. (Or else I hope it's helping. lol).

SusanJ 6 years ago

Loved this article--scholarly content AND humor! What about a connection to "rap sheet" (Record of Arrest and Prosecution)?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hi Susan, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm certain there is a direct connection between bad rap and a rap sheet, being as it is really a list of the things that they have a rap against you for. A bad rap sheet would be a list of false accusations I guess. LOL. All the stuff you did time for that you shouldn't have. How depressing. :P

kalliereann 6 years ago

Rap = rapport.

The end.

The joys of overoveroveranalyzing.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Excellent. With underunderunderanalyzing thrown in, now we have both ends of the spectrum!

cr8dv8 6 years ago

In a post about grammar, one would think you wouldn't use "alright", but "all right", since the latter is proper and former is not.

Just saying.

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

A good point, but I would argue that that actually totally makes the point I'm making with the article regarding grammar and language in constant flux. Many words have already (all ready) become standard. Others are in transitional places of acceptance, and some stuff is still total slang and regional dialect. I would argue that "alright" is totally acceptable except in extreme grammar-Nazi situations. The OED lists it as a "frequent spelling of 'all right'" with no red marks of distaste.

As I mention above, "bad wrap" will probably fall into that category too someday, perhaps not with the same precedent that other words have, that being contraction of phrases, but rather just illiteracy or sound-alike stuff, but use by the populace becomes "standard" over time. It's really a democratic process, held in check from total chaos by the keepers of order (liberal and conservative) who write, critique, define and instruct.

Audrevea 6 years ago

Bad wrap is the no frills plastic stuff you use on sandwiches and leftovers. It sticks to itself and makes a huge mess before it deigns to do its allocated job.

Still too stingy to buy a name brand though :D

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hah! Yes, you are right, that is bad wrap, and it sells under the brand name Not-so-Glad.

August 6 years ago

Actually, the term "rap sheet" is from the acronym RAP and the associated police RAP Sheet. The acronym stands for "record of arrests and prosecutions."

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

That's interesting, August. The 1777 example of the post master "having a rap against him" did not mention that acronym as the origin of that particular use, wherein it appears to be a complaint and not an acronym for a record sheet. I did find a 1949 reference to "rap sheet" but it is listed as colloquial even in the updated editions (I just checked). That acronym seems to come quite a bit after the oath/statement/witnessing type thing, but it certainly does reinforce the phrase. Hard to say if the acronym you describe was assembled coincidentally or on purpose to fit, but I can't find any evidence that the acronym drove the original uses based on the etymological trail of the OED. Doesn't mean I'm not missing something though. If you find something, I'll gladly incorporate it if I can verify it.

TomM 6 years ago

Thanks for posting this!

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks for reading it. :)

Rachel 6 years ago

Well, did anyone consider that rap could be short for rapport in this case? Just a thought. From one language junkie to another. Thanks for your blog; it's what came up when I went to double check what the correct phrase was in this instance.

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I'm not sure that rapport was in use prior to rap, but it may be the case. I think rapport is French, so there may some Latin roots in there or something. Your guess is as good as mine. I just went for the English etymology and what was in the OED. They don't list that as the root of it, so I leave the expertise to them on this sort of thing. I just looked it up. :)

anima_vera 6 years ago

thanks for info; it was extremely important for me while translating text from English to foreign languages.

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Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

That's very cool to hear, anima_vera. I'm happy to know it was useful.

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cartloop 5 years ago from Sacramento

Great hub and just goes to show how ever sure you are about something it pays to get your facts straight.

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

You're sure right about that, cartloop. Sadly, there have been many occasions where I was absolutely certain, beyond any question that I was right about something only to learn (often days later) that I was wrong. The only redemption for us frail humans in those moments is to know that, hopefully, we did not make a pompous ass of ourselves in our attempts to prove ourselves, which of course I never have because I am above such things always, etc. (cough) (cough).

jipjop 5 years ago

it's rep

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

A bad reputation is frequently spoken as "bad rep," but that is a newer phrase that appears to have arisen on its own, completely unrelated to the bad rap as discussed in this article (and including an abbreviation for "reputation" whereas "rap" is actually a word). However, as you perhaps unknowingly suggest, it appears that common usage is going to lump that term in with the other and perhaps eventually the disctinct meanings will all blur together into one. This is likely do to the declining frequency of serious reading in favor of short-cut writing mediums like Facebook and texting, where literacy is cast aside out of a sense of convenience or ignorance, and nobody cares which. So long as the message gets across, there's no problem, but if somone means to speak of a bad rap (as in a false accusation in a court of law) as opposed to a bad rep (as in being known for loose sexual behavior or poor work ethic and that sort of thing) then there is a problem of lost meaning.

B.Wise 5 years ago

I actually thought that the use of "bum" in "bum rap" referred to the location of corporal punishment delivered for some criminal act. "Rap" as the motion, "bum" the location--the rear end. Kick in the can? (keeping it clean) If someone else previously suggested this, I apologize. I did not read all responses/comments to the article. I have not researched the use of "bum," but as evolution goes, it too could have evolved from the rear to the fore when used to mean "bad." Perhaps I will conduct some research and see....

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Nope, B. Wise, you're the first to come up with that one. Let me know how the research pans out, lol.

LocoLexia 5 years ago

Shades... you are a breath of fresh air. i did come here because of a doubt, as i was writing something, between the spelling 'bad wrap' and 'bad rap' but read the entire article. etymology interests me. i will check back too to see what B.Wise comes up with...

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Heh heh, LocoLexia, I'm not holding my breath on his reasearch, but I also find myself amused to think someone might be muttering his way through the dusty depths of some library scratching for scraps of evidence to prove his butt theory.

Thanks for reading and commenting; I'm glad you stayed for it all. :)

sashi 5 years ago

when you get a bum rap, you still go down on the scrolls.

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

That's what I've heard. :P

Jay Wood 5 years ago

Nice Work to write this note Homie.

thx to help promoting our hip-hop and rap culture.

Hip-hop are our life and we love people to help us promoting this subculture.

Best Regards from Europe

Darkonia Records

The First polish e-label promoting young hip-hop artists

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Well, Jay, while I must admit you have confirmed some stereotypes here, I am glad to, uh, be of service. I do wish you the best of luck with your label, however, and so I'll leave your link up despite your having imposed it on MY work without asking. :D

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allstayathome 5 years ago from Fristco, Texas

Thanks so much. Good advice.

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

You are welcome, and thank you for reading and commenting.

Aaron Mickelson 5 years ago

I loved this article. I kept hoping that maybe they would connect the gavel in a court room to mean a "bad rap" since both a bad word, or oath, could be reason behind someone being wrongfully accused. Also the hammering action of the gavel symbolizes a final verdict in a trial. Hense, a bum rap could link the two meanings together. Maybe it's a stretch, but it sounds good. Hmm.... Any takers?

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Heh heh, Aaron, I'll buy it. It sounds as good as some of my stretches up there. And there is definitely some rapping of the gavel anyway. The only people I am not cutting any slack is the "It's bad REP" people. They need at least another twenty years of inarticulate speakers dominating music and culture before I personally can accept that one working its way into this conversation seriously.

Jim 5 years ago

I find it interesting that you got "bad rap" right (and thanks for clearing that up), but you still have "all right" all wrong.

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Jim, thanks for playing along. It's funny how often I see people hate that. It's one of those words that's been in transition for a long time. It's actually in the OED, listed as: 1. ...Just, exactly... and 2. A frequent spelling of 'all right'

I've used it for years because it doesn't autocorrect in MS Word either (likely because so many dictionaries have it these days... although there are many that don't as well).

The funny thing is, I try very hard not to let grammar Nazis bother me too much because, well, they are what they are, but there are still so many old-schoolers out there that have a cow at "alright" that I've actually caught myself spelling it "all right" recently just out of reflex; all that harping is like one of those dog-clickers they use to train dogs, making me spell it the old way unnecessarily. I have to try to remember to spell it "alright' so that I don't look like some dusty old curmudgeon, especially if I mean alright as in "hey, this is okay" as opposed to meaning all right as in "each particular item is correct." English is fun though, no matter how you view it.

Joel Benington 5 years ago

Description beats prescription any day in my book:

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Great graph, Joel. I should have thought of that. Nice addition to the thread, thanks. (I went and read your latest article too, would have left a comment, but there's no place to do it. Nice work though.)

Adam 5 years ago

Um...rap is short for rapport and/or rapprochement. Having a bad rap means having bad rapport (bad relations) with others.

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Well, Adam, um... no. I believe you are confusing a belief that seems logical to you with the actual meaning and origin.

However, if you have some academic sources that credibly refute the deep and sweepingly careful study that goes into the Oxford English Dictionary's meticulous account of every find-able reference to the term dating back into the 16th century, then by all means, please provide it. I'm happy to learn something new, and would be equally entertained to see all those Ph.D. scholars and dusty-faced researchers shown how to REALLY dig through historical documents and find the truth. By all means, share your sources.

NRG_Educ8r 5 years ago

Here I was, thinking it's "bad rep."

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Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Well, the reality is, that's kind of what it means, NRG_Educ8r, so you are hardly alone in thinking that, nor are you 'wrong' in any way that is really going to present a problem. Frankly, given the evolving nature of language, it wouldn't surprise me if that is the "official" use of it someday, because A) lots of people already think that is the "right" version, and B) it makes sense for it to be regardless of etymology up to now.

Donna - Phx 4 years ago

Merriam-Webster online dictionary says "to suffuse or surround with an aura or state as the affair was wrapped in scandal" ....

I'll stick with "bad wrap", thank you. Oh, and yes about twenty years ago, punctuation marks were not enclosed by quotation marks ... my how things change.

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hi Donna. Thanks for reading and commenting. I went and looked at that websters online and it defines "rap" as a reputation, often a bad one, and then goes on to say that it is often used with "Bad" making a bad rap a bad bad rap. LOL. I'm not much of a fan of the online dictionaries for that very reason, they seem more focused on getting ad revenue than providing depth of definition. I should make a point of looking to see who actually puts those out, as I can't help but suspect it's not Random House or whoever else publishes the real thing. Would make an interesting article to find out.

As for the punctuation in quotes, actually the difference isn't so much time as location. British English puts the punctuation on the outside, as you have done, American English puts it on the inside,"like this," which is different. Neither is "wrong," at least not in American English (I can't say how the grammar Nazis would react in the U.K.). The more I have studied grammar, the more of those American/British conflicts there are, and how much they confuse normal people, and drive the grammar Nazis to distraction as they run about trying to correct the world. I would say one of the best things that came with my English degrees was learning that there are no real rules. Grammar is a convention of use, meant to assist and enable meaning, so your use of grammar, like "bad wrap", even with the comma on the outside is just fine. I know what you meant, and so will the rest of the world. (Although, the "w" might raise a few eyebrows from time to time.)

Wow 4 years ago

Umm...who was confused about this in the first place? Bad rap...rap as in short for rapport. Some people use "rep" because of the common misspelling of rapport, "repoire".

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Well, Wow, it seems you, like many, have a distinct opinion, and, unlike some others, you have become convinced of a certainty on the origin. The researched etymology doesn't seem to support your position, but, in the end, it probably doesn't matter, so long as people know what you mean when you say it.

A "rapport" for what it's worth, is typically understood to mean a genial relationship, a meaningful connection between people. So, if someone has a "bad rapport" that would suggest that they don't get along, which is not really what I believe most people understand as the concept behind the phrase 'bad rap.' Most often it is meant to mean "a false accusation" as discussed in the article. You may have skimmed and missed that, or else I just haven't done a proper job in conveying the idea in the text. If so, I apologize, but I did try to be a clear as possible.

Cynthia 4 years ago

Really interesting. I can't believe anybody ever thought that "wrap" could be correct. Hope you didn't get a bad, er, uh, bum rap for thinking that there might be some creedence to that.

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Ha, no, Cynthia. Fortunately, nobody found out. Well, except you and a few others, but I'm counting on generous spirits from those who happen to have read this far. :)

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melbel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

I'm in the middle of editing a hub and wasn't sure if it was "bad rep" or "bad rap", so I Googled it and found this hub. It always makes me feel awesome when I see a hub in my Google search results. :) Great hub, by the way, I found exactly what I was looking for! :) Thanks!

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Melbel. It's always nice to know when your work has been useful, and perhaps even more so when it's for a fellow Hubber, eh? :D

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Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

I though about this while I was writing my newest hub hub, today. In my case, I wrote "Bad Wrap"-- and I'm ready to defend that.

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

I just went and read that article, Rochelle. LOL at the title for sure. Leave it to you to find a way to make "bad wrap" the right way to say something. hah!

John M. 4 years ago

'Bad rep' & 'bad rap' are both correct but are not the same thing. 'Bad rap'='bum rap', which means your punishment/shunning is undeserved. 'Bad rep' is just short for 'bad reputation', which may or may not be deserved!

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Yeah, John M., there's definitely a solid case that can be made for the emergence of "bad rep" as its own idea in the last ten or twenty years. There are a few out there who think both phrases mean the same thing (or even that there is only one), but I expect, in the end, the ideas aren't so far apart as to create riots of misunderstanding.

William 4 years ago

Interesting post, this one. Someone mentioned above, but RAP is an acronym for "record of arrests and prosecution." I guess growing up I associated the phrases "bad rap," "bum rap," and "beat the rap" w/ early to mid twentieth century jargon- the kind used by Americans in a culture captivated with both law enforcement and criminals, gansters, bank robbers, bootleggers, etc. The acronym has been used by the FBI as well, so perhaps it was playful usage among agents that was relayed to media, disseminated via radio and newspapers? Headline: "Will Capone Beat the Rap?" Who knows, but it just seems logical to me that this would be the root of these phrases' modern use. But I enjoyed the deeper analysis, too. Thanks.

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hi William. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I think that acronym fits pretty well, and I think you're probably spot on about how the term got launched into prominence like that. Maybe it's sort of a ... Yeah, the egg definitely came before the chicken, but the chicken is what everybody is eating right now... kind of thing.

Naia Jones 4 years ago

Still getting comments on a piece you wrote three years ago? Hats off to you. I found your article very informative, interesting, and entertaining. Thank you for your efforts. I'll have to check-out more of your writing some time. I was about to use the term 'bad rep' in a blog post, then stopped to check on it, lest I be guilty of being web savvy/reliant and popular, but linguistically incorrect. I'm changing my blog title instead to 'The ego's bad rap', per your article. Thanks again.

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Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Hi Naia Jones. I had hoped, in my own need to know, I might be useful to others. It's done pretty well over the years, Mama Google continues to serve this article up despite my refusal to jam it up with advertisements every third word, etc. This site puts ads on stuff, true enough, and I don't mind getting my pittance every few months, but the point remains regardless of all that part. Hopefully it will keep going in the name of literacy, lol. Thanks for reading and, honestly, I am most proud of the humor stuff, so hopefully you will poke around the titles that make the least sense. If you liked or hated Twilight, have a look at "The Dim Gray Time Before Sunset." Or something that sounds equally horrible. Those are actually my best ones.

Rae 3 years ago

Bad rep = bad reputation

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Shadesbreath 3 years ago from California Author

Yeah, that's what many people feel it means. No point in arguing either, since nobody writing in an academic setting is going to use the that modern iteration anyway. I think that most people will understand the context of the usage and not be confused by the flip-flop that the homonym (of sorts) between "bad rap" and "bad rep" have become. It is fun to watch though. A "bad rap" is a false accusation about someone having a bad reputation, and a "bad rep" is simply a reputation that is bad, whether true or false. Letting go of the true meaning of the original term weakens communication in a way, but, likely context and voice inflections and that sort of thing will hold it together, and people who don't realize they've skipped over the original meaning will just have to come up with a new term to describe being falsely accused. They surely will, and that is how and why language always evolves.

Chantelle 3 years ago

Bad rep. = bad reputation.

Adam Ramsay 3 years ago

Thanks for this - on another note - there's an advert for 'the writers guild' at the top of the page. Surely it should be 'the writers' guild'?

ElizabethCo 2 years ago

If I saw a person being unfairly punished, I would say they were getting a "bum(bad) rap". Bad/bum makes sense here; it's being used to describe the (un)fairness of the rap.

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