Swipe

January 17, 2021 ☼ Word of the day

A strong blow given with a sweeping motion

The thing of a swipe is hard and intense. Like a fist to an unsuspecting jaw.

He took a swipe at George during breakfast.

Other swipes, though invisible, smart all the same. Like a complaint to an unsuspecting host.

He took a swipe at George’s technique for preparing eggs.

But swipe feels most familiar as a verb:

Smeared with runny egg, George feebly swiped the air.

Both to noses and to egos, swipe is the action delivering those blows.

Swipe also means to steal. From larceny of property (“I swiped this plate from George’s China hutch.”) to loans ontological (“I’m totally swiping George’s look.”), swiping is as much taking as it is delivering.

In the world of advertising, a swipe file is a collection of other folks’ ideas used for “inspiration.” In comic books, a swipe is an uncredited homage to another artist’s cover. Unlike the swipe at George’s hospitality, a comic book swipe is meant as a compliment, though some consider it a blow all the same.

In the world of hip hop, a swipe is a breakdance move in which a twisted torso beckons the lower half to follow.

Even as a noun, this swipe is packed with action. I’ll never attempt it.

You’ll sooner find me swiping a credit card. In the days of yore, one imprinted such cards against carbon paper; today you might insert or tap it. But swipe feels like the favorite. We don’t talk about cash in these physical terms. It’s something you spend—unless of course, somebody’s swiped it from you.

The most modern swipe requires the handheld computer in your pocket. Thanks to capacitive glass, you can engage in swipe’s most existential format: the swipe left. It is perhaps swipe’s most painful articulation and ironically one felt not at all.

No words, no fists, no twists, no charge: the most efficient swipe is the press of a finger eradicating the possibility of love.