Maternal insult

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"Yo mama," "yo momma," "yo mamma," and "your mum" redirect here. For the television show, see Yo Momma. For the one-upmanship game frequently involving maternal insults, see The dozens.

A maternal insult (also referred to as a "yo mama" joke) is a reference to a person's mother through the use of phrases such as "your mother" or other regional variants, frequently used to insult the target by way of their mother.[1] Used as an insult, "your mother..." preys on widespread sentiments of filial piety, making the insult particularly and globally offensive. "Your mother" can be combined with most types of insults, although suggestions of promiscuity are particularly common.[2] Insults based on obesity, incest, age, race, poverty, poor hygiene, unattractiveness, or stupidity may also be used. Compared to other types of insults, "your mother" insults are especially likely to incite violence.[3] Slang variants such as "yo mama", "yo momma", "yer ma", "ya mum", "your mum" or "your mom" are sometimes used, depending on the local dialect. Insults involving "your mother" are commonly used when playing the dozens.

Although the phrase has a long history of including a description portion (such as the old, mostly harmless insult "your mother wears combat boots"), the phrase "yo mama" by itself, without any qualifiers, has become commonly used as an all-purpose insult[1] or an expression of defiance.

Historic examples

William Shakespeare used such a device in Act I Scene 1 of Timon of Athens:

Painter: "Y'are a dog."
Apemantus: "Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?"

Also in Act IV, Scene II of Titus Andronicus, Aaron taunts his lover's sons:

Demetrius: "Villain, what hast thou done?"
Aaron: "That which thou canst not undo."
Chiron: "Thou hast undone our mother."
Aaron: "Villain, I have done thy mother."

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ a b Andrew Conway (1994). "You're ugly, your dick is small and everybody's afraid to fuck your mother: The Stand Up Comedian's Response to the Heckler". Maledicta 11. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  2. ^ Ayoub, Millicent R.; Barnett, Stephen A. (1965 October–December). "Ritualized Verbal Insult in White High School Culture". The Journal of American Folklore (American Folklore Society) 78 (310): 337–344. doi:10.2307/538441. JSTOR 538441. 
  3. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (2006-06-12). "The mother of all insults". London: The Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  4. ^ Katrina Lobley (2005-08-19). "Degeneration Y". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-03-02. 

External links