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Ex­cerpted from the Wikipedia en­try Ma­ter­nal In­sult.

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. 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. In­sults based on obe­sity, height, hairi­ness, lazi­ness, 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. 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.

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 or an ex­pres­sion of de­fi­ance.


In the Bi­ble, King Jo­ram is greeted by the rebel Jehu with a hos­tile ex­pres­sion con­cern­ing Jo­ram’s mother:

When Jo­ram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?”

And he an­swered, “What peace, so long as the har­lotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?”

Wil­liam Shake­speare used such a de­vice in Act I Scene I 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 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.”

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