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The free dictionary gives this definition for rip on:

give someone a hard time; to hassle someone

and this one for pick on:

to harass or bother someone or something, usually unfairly

It sounds pretty much the same to me, but maybe there's a slight difference I don't catch?

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Could be a generation gap here but I think of bullying when I hear "picked on" and to me, "rip on" is something guys do to tease each other but it is in a joking manner, not hostile or serious. –  Kristina Lopez Aug 28 '13 at 17:32
    
I've never heard rip on. The dictionaries seem to suggest this is solely US slang. –  TrevorD Aug 28 '13 at 18:36
    
Trevor, I haven't heard it either. It is probably limited to American English. –  Tristan Aug 28 '13 at 20:30
    
I think it is fairly new here, too. It may be in another 10 years it will land at Heathrow and become part of the culture there, too. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 28 '13 at 22:11
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Picking on someone implies merely bullying -- unfairly making fun of or harrassing someone because of something they can't help, such as their physical appearance or mannerisms. An example would be a short person being harrassed because of their physical size, or a person with a mole on their face being harrassed or made fun of because of the disfigurement. Or because of their religion or nationality, etc.

Ripping on someone involves severely criticizing their actions or their political positions, or even their work, such as your boss ripping on you for your bad job performance. Ripping may be fair or unfair, but it is generally directed at actions or attitudes.

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Right. They're different metaphors. Pick on is childish bullying, whereas rip on is verbal abuse (rip a new one). Both themes are perfectly coherent in practically any mix. –  John Lawler Aug 28 '13 at 16:55
    
I've found that one who is 'picked on' isn't always 'picked on' for a particular reason. There is often a given reason by the pick-er, but it is equally likely to occur for little to no reason at all, just that the individual they are 'picking on' is a preferred target. –  Zibbobz Aug 28 '13 at 16:58
    
That was my experience as well, @Zibbobz. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 28 '13 at 17:01
    
@Charles, you didn't need to delete your answer just because you thought mine was better -- there's always room for differing interpretations and points of view. In StackExchange, even the answers not Accepted can provide valuable insight. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 28 '13 at 17:03
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"Ripping On" is a verbal exchange or a mocking behavior of someone, deriding them for the way they act. Specifically, to put down or belittle their way of acting.

"Picking On" someone means to bully or harass someone. It can be that the person picking on someone else chooses to do so for the reason that they see fault in the way a person acts or behaves, but is not always the case.

"Picking On" can also include physical violence, where "Ripping On" usually does not.

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In middle school (used to be called Junior High School where I lived then) I used to get picked on because I looked nerdy. The "pickers" never ripped on me. I got ripped on much later when my performance in Army Basic Training didn't match the Drill Sergeant's demands and expectations. –  Cyberherbalist Aug 28 '13 at 16:59
    
Picking On also doesn't have to included any form of Ripping On, though it can. As a particular example, in the movie "Back to the Future", the villian Biff Tannen most definitely picks on the lead character's father George McFly, and at the same time rips on him for his behavior. –  Zibbobz Aug 28 '13 at 17:08
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"Picked on" can also imply something ongoing, or just a general climate of bullying or of being outcast. "I was picked on in school" could mean all through my school years, I was constantly the victim of bullying. (It could also mean "I was picked on in school today.") "Ripped on" is usually confined to describing a particular occurrence.

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Of course you're correct! –  Cyberherbalist Aug 28 '13 at 21:48
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