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A sharp rebuke or rebuff, as in Being criticized in front of my staff was a real slap in the face, or We thought it quite a slap in the face when they returned our letter unopened. The figurative use of this term, which can also refer to a literal blow, dates from the late 1800s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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