The playful and gendered use of insults and criticisms in romantic couples’ everyday banter


  • Neill Korobov University of West Georgia



gender, insults, criticisms, discursive, affiliation, romantic relationships


The present study focuses on the gendered and playful ways that insults and criticisms are formulated by young adult romantic couples in their natural interactional contexts. A discourse analytic approach was used to examine how twenty young adult heterosexual romantic couples (ages 19–26) use gender to playfully pursue insults and criticisms in their natural ecological contexts. This study is motivated by a burgeoning arena of research that suggests that conflicts among contemporary young adults may often be sociable in nature, and thus may not pose the kind of adversarial face-threats for young adult intimates in the ways that would be traditionally expected. The analyses demonstrate three conspicuous patterns. First, that the vast majority of the insults and criticisms are gendered. Second, that nearly all of the excerpts involve the creative use of various forms of irony, laughter, rekeyings, abrupt non-sequiturs and topic shifts to allow the gendered insults/criticisms to appear playful. And finally, the analyses show how these gendered and playful insults/criticisms are consequential as preliminaries for affiliation.

Author Biography

Neill Korobov, University of West Georgia

Neill Korobov is a professor and director of the PhD programme in the Department of Psychology at the University of West Georgia, USA. He is interested in the architecture of people’s conversations and stories for the study of identity. His research is situated in discursive psychology, straddling critical discursive and conversation analytic methods. For the last several years he has been studying the natural conversations between young adult romantic partners. He is interested in the ways couples pursue intimacy, connect and create affiliation while bantering, telling stories, arguing and sharing their desires.


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How to Cite

Korobov, N. (2017). The playful and gendered use of insults and criticisms in romantic couples’ everyday banter. Gender and Language, 11(2), 278–305.