Are you talking—or are you ‘yapping’?

March 23, 2024

Have you ever been told you have the gift of gab? Did your school report cards suggest you pipe down in class? Perhaps you’ve been called a chatterbox on an occasion or two?

If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you might be a yapper, reports The New York Times.

Terms like yapper, yap and yapping have become popular on TikTok in recent weeks. To yap, in modern parlance, is simply to talk … a lot, often about something of little importance.

“In the Internet context, I would say somebody that’s a yapper is somebody that talks too much or is an over-sharer,” says Taylor-Nicole Limas, a 27-year-old influencer and self-proclaimed yapper in Chicago. “Somebody that just keeps on talking to fill the air. If it gets quiet, they just don’t stop talking.”

Users might post a video of themselves yapping, talking at length about a given topic—perhaps something they feel moved to rant about, or a subject in which they are an armchair expert. Or someone might be called a yapper in the comments of a video (whether the speaker intended to yap or not).

Being labeled a yapper isn’t necessarily a compliment, but on a platform built on talk, it isn’t an insult either.

Some creators have cheerfully embraced the moniker. Last summer, the TikTokers @bag_and_cj became known for videos in which they react to other TikTok videos with rambling commentary. The duo was named Yip and Yap by their fans. (An occasional third participant is known as Yop.)

On a podcast in February, the ESPN host Tim MacMahon invoked the term in a less flattering context when he floated it as a potential factor in the Dallas Mavericks’ decision to trade Grant Williams: “I would say one of the ways that Grant Williams rubbed people the wrong way—the yap, yap, yapping—obviously, that’s kind of part of it with him,” MacMahon said.

Reesa Teesa—who recently captivated TikTok with a multipart saga detailing the ins and outs of her dramatic marriage—may be a prime example of the form. She captivated millions with a tale that stretched over more than six hours.

Jess Rauchberg, an assistant professor of Communication Technologies at Seton Hall University, says she wasn’t surprised to see so-called yapping becoming more common, given TikTok’s recent emphasis on longer videos. Users can currently upload videos up to ten minutes long, and the platform is testing videos as long as 30 minutes, according to TechCrunch.

Although it wasn’t always referred to as such, yapping has long been a hallmark of social media, where content creators, particularly on YouTube, are known to film longer videos, potentially allowing for more advertising revenue.

The term has cropped up more recently as “a way to poke fun at these long-form ways of sharing ideas,” Dr. Rauchberg says. “I also see it as a way that creators are self-internalizing their biggest fears of content creation—that dark side of content creation: What if I’m not likable? What if I’m saying too much or I say the wrong thing?”

The word “yap” dates to the early 17th century, said Nicole Holliday, an assistant professor of linguistics at Pomona College. It originally was used to describe the sounds made by dogs. (In recent decades, the word has popped up in hip-hop.)

“Particularly like small, high-pitched dog,” Dr. Holliday says. “Which can, maybe, give you an idea of the way in which this word would be gendered.”

Not every yapper is a woman, but much online yapping content is made by or about women. Some female users say they are reclaiming a gender stereotype by identifying with the term.

“I don’t think it’s a negative trait to be yapping all the time,” Limas, the influencer, says. “I think the play on the word ‘yapper’ that is becoming more popular is a way to take that power back, a way of saying that it’s OK to be talkative.”

 Research contact: @nytimes