Make Your Editor Cry: Bad Rap vs. Bad Rep

Make Your Editor Cry:  Bad Rap vs. Bad Rep

A bad rap—also known as a bum rap—is shame that results from false accusations or trumped-up charges. A bad wrap with a “-w is a disgusting sandwich made of fillings wrapped in a tortilla shell.

Please—PLEASE—note that neither of these phrases want or need a hyphen.

The rap in bad rap is closely related to the rap in rap sheet, which refers to a list of one’s past criminal offenses. It’s also related to an American English sense of the word dating from the late 18th century—namely, a reprimand or a criticism. Get this. All these meanings of rap likely descend from older uses related to strokes delivered as punishment by a whip or wooden switch.

There’s also bad rep where rep is short for reputation—an abbreviation that literally dates back centuries. The fact that rap sounds a little bit like rep might also have contributed to the modern sense of bad rep. To have a bad rap is to have a bad rep, but bad rep only appears rarely.

Examples:

Incorrect:

Herpetologist Vivian claims rattlesnakes get a bad wrap in movies.
Combine mustard, pickles, and uncooked fish with a tortilla and you have the ingredients for a bad rap.

Correct:

Herpetologist Vivian claims rattlesnakes get a bad rap in movies.
Combine mustard, pickles, and uncooked fish with a tortilla and you have the ingredients for a bad wrap.

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