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, 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. 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 or an expression of defiance. The insult may fall flat if it is true and should be used with caution.
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
- The television show Yo Momma features contestants "playing the dozens."
- The Australian hip-hop outfit Butterfingers released a song called "Yo Mama" that made number 17 on the 2004 Triple J Hottest 100.
- The comedic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail presents maternal insult as a method of taunting prevalent since at least the High Middle Ages, combining it with its paternal equivalent in a French castle guard's exclamation "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"
- The Mexican film Y tu mamá también's title is an equivalent usage in Spanish ("and your mother too").
- California alternative hip hop group The Pharcyde's debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde featured as its first single "Ya Mama" mainly of the group playing the dozens, released October 8, 1992.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jeffries, Stuart (2006-06-12). "The mother of all insults". London: The Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
- Katrina Lobley (2005-08-19). "Degeneration Y". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-03-02.