A variation of a maternal insult graffitied on a wall in French, roughly translated as 'go fuck your mother'
A variation of a maternal insult graffitied on a wall in French, roughly translated as 'go fuck your mother'

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 parental respect, 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, height, hairiness, laziness, incest, age, race, poverty, poor hygiene, unattractiveness, homosexuality, 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", "ya mom", "ur mom", "your mum", "ur mum", "ur mother", "Joe mama"[a], 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 "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, implying that a character's mother is a "bitch":

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 Shakespeare's 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."

An anti–Andrew Jackson newspaper said this of his mother:[4][dubious ]

"General Jackson's mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!!!"

— Cincinnati Gazette, Charles Hammond

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: 34–46. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
  2. ^ Millicent R. Ayoub and Sephen A. Barnett (October–December 1965). "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". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  4. ^ Remini, Robert V. (1966). Andrew Jackson. New York: Twayne Publishers. p. 13. LCCN 66-16124.

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ In this case, "Joe mama" is used without a punchline or further elaboration, with just it and nothing attached to it. It uses "Joe" to replace the word "yo" (slang for your), and became a popular internet meme in the late 2010s.