Simp is an Internet slang term describing someone who performs excessive sympathy and attention toward another person, typically someone who does not reciprocate the same feelings. This is usually done in pursuit of a sexual relationship.

Urban Dictionary defines a simp as ‘someone who does way too much for a person they like.’ This behavior, known as ‘simping,’ is carried out toward a variety of targets, including celebrities, politicians, e-girls, and e-boys.

Originally a shortening of ‘simpleton,’ the ‘New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English’ traces usage of the noun simp to 1903. The term appeared in the ‘New York Times’ as early as 1923, when the paper reported on a letter by one Lillian Henderson criticizing the members of two clubs in Atlantic City for unmarried men: ‘Those bachelor simps are afraid to take a chance and too tight to share their earnings with a wife.’

Simp began to have the connotation of someone being ‘soft’ and ‘overly sympathetic’ in the 1980s, when it was used by West Coast rappers such as Hugh E.M.C., Too Short, and E-40. In 1999, the term was used in the Three 6 Mafia song ‘Sippin’ on Some Syrup’ as an antonym for pimp; Too Short has described a simp as equivalent to ‘a knockoff pimp.’ The term has been expressed as an acronym for ‘Sucka Idolizing Mediocre Pussy.’

A definition of simp appeared on Urban Dictionary in 2005, and the word continued to be used by rappers into the 2010s, when it was adopted by members of manosphere, incel, and MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) forums alongside similar derogatory terms such as ‘cuck,’ ‘beta,’ and ‘white knight.’

The word became widely popular on TikTok in 2019, and soon also became popular on Twitch and Twitter. According to Google Trends, interest in the term doubled between late 2018 and late 2019. The word has been used by some fan communities who call themselves ‘simps’ for a celebrity figure. Most such uses of the term are meant ironically.

In July 2020, the official Twitter account for Archie Comics said that it would permanently ban people from its YouTube channel for comments calling the comics’ main character, Archie Andrews, a simp. The A.V. Club opined that, while it was ‘pretty safe to say that Archie Andrews is, quite simply, the simpiest of the simps,’ no such comments could be found on the comics’ YouTube channel, and the Twitter post was likely an attempt at exploiting the Streisand effect for viral marketing.

In September, users of Reddit created a pledge called ‘No Simp September,’ similar to ‘No Nut November’ (a month-long abstention from masturbation). Participation in ‘No Simp September’ required posters to abstain from upvoting women’s photos, watching pornography, and ‘giving money to online sex workers,’ including ‘e-girls.’

While the term initially denoted a specific kind of sycophant, upon achieving broad popularity, it began to see use as a general insult. In ‘The New York Times,’ reporters Ezra Marcus and Jonah Bromwich describe the term as a misogynist insult, one which ‘expresses discomfort with equality when it comes to gender, and offers a simple way to dismiss the people causing that discomfort.’ María writes that while the term is mostly used ‘ironically and without misogynistic undertones,’ ‘it doesn’t take much to be called a simp” in some anti-feminist spaces, and that ‘everything from pining after a crush to actually respecting women could be considered simping.’ Taylor writes that the idea of the ‘simp’ most often ‘seems to be a guy who simply treats women well, or just not like trash’ and is ‘just another scapegoat for MGTOW misogyny.’

In May 2020, ‘Kotaku’ reported that Twitch was ‘cracking down on’ custom emotes using the word ‘simp,’ and had been ‘on a simp emote deleting spree’ since late February. Twitch often requires its ‘partners’ to submit custom emotes for approval prior to users being permitted to embed them; most of these emotes simply depicted a streamer or a fictional character holding up a sign with ‘SIMP’ written on it, or were rasterizations of the text of the word itself. By December 2020, the word was described as a ‘favorite in the Twitch community’ by ‘The Verge.’

Twitch announced in December 2020 that administrative action would be taken against the accounts of streamers and commenters who used the word, along with ‘incel’ and ‘virgin,’ saying that those words were offensive; Twitch COO Sara Clemens said during a ‘town hall’ livestream that, while use of the words would be permitted under approved circumstances, Twitch would be ‘proactively denying’ custom emotes that included the words. This ban was part of a broader expansion of Twitch’s list of forbidden content; the policy, viewable on Twitch’s website, also prohibited posting that ‘expresses inferiority’ based on ‘moral deficiencies.’

In interviews with ‘Kotaku,’ people affected by the ban described their channels’ use of the term as mostly benign—one streamer said it was ‘mostly banter and, in some cases, a compliment.’ Another streamer, while acknowledging that the word was sometimes used to describe ‘quite creepy’ behavior, said her use of a ‘simp’ emote was ‘mainly just a joke within my community.’

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