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What Does "In Your Face" Mean?

A basketball player who scores against an opponent might use the taunt, "In your face."
The slang term "in your face" is sometimes used when antagonizing an opponent.
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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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"In your face" is an idiomatic expression that is associated with urban slang and meant to convey macho aggression and bravado. It is frequently used in sports such as boxing or basketball to taunt an opponent after taking the more dominant position in a match or game. This type of bluntly spoken slang phrase is also characterized as bold and defiant when the speaker wants to initiate or sometimes gain the upper hand in a confrontation. The speaker may use it to demonstrate his or her superiority in a given situation.

Depending on the geographic region and its common dialect, "in your face" can frequently be pronounced as "in yo face" as an alternative. The origin of this kind of aggressive idiom can be traced to the United States of the mid-1970s, when it was first quoted in a basketball novel called A Mile Above the Rim. "In your face" has since become commonplace during nose to nose stand-offs between boxers just before they begin a timed round as the sport's rules dictate.

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This type of idiom can also be found outside sports and is often a phrase of choice in areas of popular culture. "In your face" has been selected as a title for rock or rap songs and albums; it can also be found in the fashion world as the name of a clothing line or as a T-shirt slogan. Due to the successful integration of this idiom into pop culture, its exact meaning can depend on the context of a given situation.

The expression is also used as an adjective that means "direct" or sometimes "unpretentious." It can be used to describe visual artwork, films, speech patterns, and even how someone may perform his or her job. In the last example, "in your face" can be used to describe tough or no-nonsense tactics.

While "in your face" can be construed as trash talk in some cases, it can also be spoken as a way of expressing confidence. It can be a means of assertiveness that sometimes discourages rather than provokes a confrontation. The expression is sometimes spoken in order to underline a recent achievement, particularly when the speaker is initially viewed as inferior or is underestimated. While confrontations are usually not desired and can be sometimes be culturally inappropriate, the bold attitude that accompanies this idiom is more highly regarded in cultures that value individualism.

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Clairdelune
Post 7

I can't imagine that this idiomatic phrase has caught on in countries like England, France, or Scotland. These countries have a long tradition of refinement and polite phrases even during a confrontation.

Our emphasis on using aggression while doing sports, makes it more fitting that we use verbal language and body language that is similar to old-time war techniques of intimidation. In our sports programs, athletes and coaches are using so many different verbal sayings and body language, that send signals back and forth to opponents and teammates. It's interesting and it's sure beats arguing and fighting on the field.

BoniJ
Post 6

I use the phrase "in your face," when speaking about my youngest granddaughter when she tries to irritate and confront her older sister by getting right up to her face and won't back off. In this case, the phrase is used as an adjective.

We talk about certain young kids who have "in your face" kinds of personalities. They usually don't do the "in your face" thing to adults, only siblings or kids their own age.

I think they are showing boldness as a reaction to feelings of anger or feelings of incompetence about something that is going on.

Sinbad
Post 5

I love the "in your face" style that describes certain artwork. Not necessarily all of it, because you are going to get the type of "in your face" artwork that is just that - in your face to be in it - but not have a message or new visual concept that actually makes it interesting and in your face.

One in your face artist that I think many people are familiar with because of the pop scene is Lady Gaga. And I love what she does.

It seems many times when I see her that her outfits or videos always make me think outside of the box simply because I am seeing something that I have absolutely never seen before.

And the art that she does with her costumes mixed in with her stage set-ups and song lyrics make me try to conjure up a story and a connection or meaning as well.

So I guess in short that is what I love about in your face artwork - it makes you think!

shell4life
Post 4

I think something "in your face" can be a bad thing too -- my friends and I were just recently talking about how many liberal television programs today are so in your face with sexuality and vulgarity. Primetime television allows actors to say things that people would have gasped at ten or fifteen years ago -- to me, that's in your face television, and not in a good way.

Shows like these once had to be aired late at night so that children would be less likely to see them. Actresses are allowed to wear extremely revealing clothing at any time of day now, and they place their nearly-bare bodies right in your face.

I wish that the world was more conservative. I would like to be entertained without having inappropriate content shoved in my face.

Perdido
Post 3

I have a cousin who has always been very competitive. He is also creative with his words, so though he will use common phrases, he always adds something to them to make them his own.

I remember the first time he used the “in your face” slang. We had been playing video games, and after I beat him several times, he finally won a round. He shouted, “In your face with a squirt of mace!”

I love it when people add their own twist to cliches. It’s so much more interesting than relying on what’s already been coined.

kylee07drg
Post 2

@cloudel - That’s funny! Language is such a particular thing. Just changing one tiny word can give a phrase an entirely different meaning.

I had a similar thing happen in my art class. The teacher took us to an exhibit and had each of us take a turn describing a certain piece of art. Some of the pieces were very bold, and their meanings were loud and clear.

We had a girl from France in our class, and she wasn’t too familiar with English phrases. When she offered up her description of the artwork, she said, “It’s very inside your face.” The teacher had to ask her what that meant, and then she realized what she had been trying to say.

cloudel
Post 1

My family took in an exchange student from Russia when I was in high school. She was my age, so she hung out with my friends and tried to replicate our behavior. She knew proper English, but we had to teach her the meanings of certain slang phrases.

She heard my friend say, “In your face!” to her opponent after scoring during our basketball game. I explained to her what it meant, and she seemed to understand.

The next week, we were shooting hoops in my yard with some neighborhood boys. They were teasing her because she kept missing the goal, so when she finally scored, she yelled out, “On your face!” We all fell over laughing.

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