What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by remembering how much we all care about our mothers? And what better way to do that than by noticing how nasty it sounds when somebody insults somebody’s mother?
From “your mother wears army boots” to “your mama’s so ____ that she ____s the ____,” mother insults have been around us for thousands of years. Some linguists claim that variations of “your mother’s c___” [rhymes with “grunt”] are the most common insult phrases in the world, found from China to Kenya to Argentina. While that particular phrase never caught on in the United States (no complaints about that), we’ve all heard plenty of “yo’ mama” jokes. African-American culture has developed an especially imaginative and skillful tradition of mother-insult-dueling, often called “the dozens,” which traces its roots back to ancient African ceremonial customs.
Hilariously filthy dozens rhymes have been one of the basic building blocks of black music from the blues to rap battling. Jelly Roll Morton’s “Dirty Dozen,” from 1908, with its perky chorus, “your mammy don’t wear no drawers,” used language as obscene as anything Lil Jon ever spat. Over the last century the dozens have wormed their way into funk, disco, pop and reggaeton. As a Mother’s Day treat, here’s a “top ten” of disrespectful mother songs.
Written by Elijah Wald