Backpfeifengesicht

By CodingStrategies on November 17th, 2017

The Ottoman Empire was created by Turkish tribes in Asia Minor, and grew to be an imperial power during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ottoman period spanned more than 600 years, ending in 1922 when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor countries. The empire was situated in the middle of east and west and interacted throughout its six-century history with both Eastern culture and Western culture. In addition, the Ottoman army was once among the most advanced fighting forces in the world, being one of the first to employ muskets. Ottoman soldiers were also allegedly trained to perform the “Osmanli Tokati,” or the Ottoman Slap.

The Ottoman slap is not actually a slap; it is a technique for unarmed defensive or offensive barehanded close-combat fighting that can easily kill an opponent. These fighters would reportedly toughen their hands by slapping clay, bark or marble and legend has it they could crack the skulls of both man and beast. Since dropping weapons while on horseback was common during a battle and could result in the rider’s death, slapping may have developed as a last ditch defense. Punching is not really effective on horseback and was also considered to be a woman’s response in a fight. As a result, the Ottomans developed a method of swinging the whole arm, using the shoulder as a pivot to hit their opponent on vulnerable parts of the head. For example, a strike to the ears, nose or back of the neck could render the opponent stunned and immobile, seriously injured or dead (ICD-10-CM code Y36.440A, War operations involving unarmed hand to hand combat, military personnel, initial encounter). In addition, the noise that resulted from the slap created psychological harm to the opposing soldiers (code F23, Brief psychotic disorder).

The Ottoman Slap should not be confused with the children’s game known as red hands, hot hands, slap jack, slapsies or just the hand-slap game. In this game, Player A extends his or her hands forward, roughly at arm’s length, with the palms down. Player B also extends his or her hands, placing them palms-up under Player A’s hands. The two players' hands should be barely touching each other, and all hands should be held around mid-torso height. The object of the game is for Player B (e.g., the slapper) to slap the backs of Player A’s hands before Player A (the slappee) can pull them away. Once Player B misses (e.g., does not slap Player A’s hands), the positions reverse and Player A is provided with an opportunity to slap his or her opponent. In full disclosure, some have criticized the game for its ability to cause pain, although that may be a primary goal when it is played among siblings (code Y04.2XXA, Assault by strike against or bumped into by another person, initial encounter).

And then there is the slap dance. The Schuhplattler is a traditional style of folk dance popular in the Alpine regions of Bavaria, Germany, Austria and German-speaking regions of northern Italy. In this dance, the performers stomp, clap and strike the soles of their shoes, thighs and knees with their hands held flat. While the Schuhplattler is still largely performed by male adults, it has become increasingly popular with youngsters, who love its colorful costumes and its bouncing, leaping, kicking and choreographed roughhousing (code Y93.41, Injury while dancing; or Y93.83, Injury during roughhousing or horseplay). The immediate precursors of today’s Schuhplattler were the 18th century Minuet and Quadrille, but without the rules associated with these highly stylized dances. In general, the young men participating in the dance improvise their leaps, stomps and acrobatics, even balancing on each other’s shoulders or stamping their feet on the ceiling.

The modified English language, like the people who live in America, is a melting pot of traditional English, along with words that have been incorporated from other languages, new words to describe technology and even abbreviations (such as “WTF,” added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2015). The German language, however, may have useful words that the United States has not yet assimilated. For example, have you ever seen a backpfeifengesicht? This refers to an individual who, either by a statement made or a look given, badly needs his or her face slapped. This term is a combination of two nouns: Backpfeife (a slap across the cheek) and Geisicht (face). Together they indicate a “face that invites a slap” or “a face badly in need of a fist,” depending on the point of view. With the efficiency of one German word, a common sentiment is beautifully expressed. For example, when (insert name of your least favorite reality star, politician, co-worker or relative here) smirks knowingly, a German friend would say he sees a backpfeifengesicht. There are even websites that rank popular television personalities who may need a wake-up slap, and others that provide an annual Backpfeifengesicht Award.

Perhaps the architects of the English language will incorporate this colorful word into future editions of the dictionary; after all, there may be an impending need to define a face in dire need of a slap. And it’s obvious that the English translation lacks both the compactness and the humor of the German original. For some reason, there is also not an ICD-10-CM diagnosis code for the frustration encountered when an individual badly needs a slap on the face; this could be a recommendation for future editions of the coding manual!